High School as a Dead Girl






High School was us and we. We learned our grammar there.
Became devised by bells sawing halls sharp as number two
pencils: we grew thin, grew dark as men in its hallways, we
grew up on men, our breasts their beards, their beards our
breasts, while we cracked open beer cans in the Girls’ Room,
swug down foam minutes before walking into Homeroom.
I was known to be dumb, detentioned, a kill myself kind of
girl, but it was you who shot herself in the head. What kind
of girl shoots herself in the head? You wanted a quality kill?
Take some sleeping pills, spare your mother the blood-grief.
You always took the hit for me. Turned around in your seat.
Did you hear what they said? Yes, some of us are intending
to go to college. Loser grief. Then the tarry hot of the parking
lot rose up, black, promising me any boy’s face bent to crack
against my face that was becoming a face: when we wanted
what we all wanted. To be pretty. Which then meant famous.


Reprinted from Oracle: Poems by Cate Marvin. Copyright © 2014 by Cate Marvin. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Cate Marvin’s first book, World’s Tallest Disaster, was chosen by Robert Pinksy for the 2000 Kathryn A. Morton Prize and published by Sarabande Books in 2001. In 2002, she received the Kate Tufts Discovery Prize. She co-edited with poet Michael Dumanis the anthology Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (Sarabande Books, 2006). Her second book of poems, Fragment of the Head of a Queen, for which she received a Whiting Award, was published by Sarabande in 2007. Marvin teaches poetry writing in Lesley University’s Low-Residency M.F.A. Program and is Professor of English at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. In 2009, she co-founded the nonprofit organization VIDA: Women in Literary Arts with poet Erin Belieu. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, her third book of poems, Oracle, was released from W.W. Norton & Co. in March 2015. More from this author →