“Birth Name as Alternate Ending” by Carson Wolfe

Carson Wolfe


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 habanera 
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. L’amour l’amour
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—fuck you
In my ending, I bind her tits, asphyxiate ribs. 
I turn that bitch blue. In my ending, I unglue 
letters M and E from the curse of her name. 
Sign, 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)

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