“Self-Portrait as Britney Spears Shaving Her Head” by Clara Collins

Clara Collins (age 15)


They sold her hair on eBay.
That night, the air whittled to a ruddy peak
and she’s driving, hurtling up that truck ramp
to the overpass where the stars hang
like icicles. There’s a plastic-red ICEE
in the cup holder, the gas station
tile slick under her feet.
There’s a flash of man-made light.
And there’s an electric buzz—
the soundtrack to the furious juxtaposition
of a woman and her voice, the deciduous spin
of embitterment. Infamy tastes
like a Pixie Stick made of cigarette ash.

My dance teacher used to tell us
to watch ourselves like the audience would.
So I became the mirrors lining the wall,
surrounded by myself at each turn
until I got so tired I quit.
Just having a body seemed
like a statement. I tried drawing myself
out of my skin, clawing at my stomach
like a pearl was waiting inside,
never realizing the forced exodus
was nothing new. They got it wrong—

it wasn’t reinvention.
It was the eclipse of all her loose selves.
I’d like to ask her what it’s like
existing in so many places at once.
See, she’s tangible now, untouchable.
The hair stays in her hands
even as it falls on the floor.

from 2020 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Clara Collins: “Writing poetry is the only way to take a complex, huge, messy idea that I can’t express and make it tangible. I love poetry because a poem never ends the way I imagined it would when starting. The reader and I discover something together.”

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