“Monica” by Laura Read

Laura Read


We were having breakfast
for dinner, which is never good for me
because I don’t like eggs,
and this seems to offend some people
but is not something I can fix.

Someone brought up Monica Lewinsky,
how she has a TED talk now,
and then someone else asked if
it was about giving good blowjobs.
I said No, it’s about shame.

This was stronger than what
I usually do, but not strong enough,
so here I am, mechanical pencil
scraping away on the receipt
from the vet as I wait for the car wash, 
trying to make amends. 

When I was a child, 
I had a friend named Monica 
who painted my fingernails red. 
When her mom saw,
she removed the polish right away
because Red was for hussies.

Monica asked the audience
to raise their hands if they had not
done something when they were 22
that they regretted. 

When I was 22, 
I made the biggest mistake of my life.
I will never forgive myself
though I couldn’t help it.
And the thing is
I don’t have to tell you.

I should have said more
on Monica’s behalf.
I sat at that table while people said
she should have changed her name,
and my husband was the one 
who said that Monica pointed out 
that Bill Clinton didn’t have to. 

I was mostly silent, staring at my nails,
which I had just gotten done that afternoon 
to see if I could stop biting them. 

When I was 22, 
I had a rule that I could only bite 
three a night because 
more than three band-aids 
looked like a problem.

But now my nails looked good.
The polish was clear
but had little flecks of glitter
that flashed like intelligence
when they caught the light.

from Rattle #68, Summer 2020


Laura Read: “I wrote ‘Monica’ because I wanted to say what I should have said in the moment, which is sometimes, for me at least, the role poetry plays.”

Rattle Logo