BIRTH NAME AS ALTERNATE ENDING
My mother named me Carmen after the opera.
More exotic than Sarah or Stacey,
the other white girls jealous of my Latin gift.
I’m not sure how old I was when I learned
Carmen was a prostitute, bewitching boys
in her flamenco dress, red as the apple Eve split
with her ungovernable mouth. But it all made sense
how Carmen’s gypsy ghost had followed me
from room to room singing
since I was ten, when the first man made an epitaph
of my body. In high school, she gave blowjob
tips in the bathroom, carved the toilet stall
with our namesake.
she taught me to love, tossing her rose
to the boot of Don Jose, the same way I threw
my skin suit into the chair of a tortured tattooist,
for him to brand me a whore for looking anywhere
but the floor the year he claimed me his.
In Bizet’s ending, Carmen tries to leave Don,
so he stabs her in the stomach and she bleeds out
to the song of him pleading her name.
In Muscato’s ending, Carmen kills Don
in self-defense, infuriating an audience
who came to applaud the death of a woman
on stage. But why? Since you started reading this poem,
another has been killed in her own home.
In my ending, I sew up the thigh split in her red dress,
a red flag to the first time I clung to porcelain, retching
between sobs for daring to check my phone. I unpick bone
from a corset borrowed from her wardrobe without asking,
line up the fragments, shape a fossil of a woman
with my face on. In my ending, I shave her hair so short,
the only thing left to twirl, her middle finger—
In my ending, I bind her tits, asphyxiate ribs.
I turn that bitch blue. In my ending, I unglue
M and E from the curse of her name.
S, O. Carson. In my ending,
I kill her myself.
from Rattle #80, Summer 2023
Carson Wolfe: “Growing up Carmen in the north of England was unusual. On my mother’s mantel, a figurine of my namesake seduced the room, her dress pulled high up her ceramic thigh, a shrine to hyper-feminine sexuality and power. In Los Angeles, I’d travelled far enough to admire this power from a place that no longer housed me; when I saw a road sign that said Carson, exit here, I did.” ( web)