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I’ll Write the Girl by Jan Beatty


It is past four in the afternoon, I have been falling asleep again and again on the desk all day. On my left is a card that says, “To-Do List: (1) Kick ass, (2) Whatever else needs doing.”

Everything I’ve ever wanted and gotten in life is because I reached for it. This view to the sun slowly setting all over the city—I worked to make it mine. Twelve years ago I was staring at my wrists and thinking, it would be so easy. I would just fall asleep and that will be it. But a part of me hasn’t forgotten the hunger, the want to want.

You need to take it easy, he tells me. Yes, I have the sunset. But what nobody told me when I chose not to die is the nagging feeling that I might want to again, on some random day, when my spirit isn’t as willing to turn and look at my window. Nobody told me that I’ll always have to carry it, shadows draped around my shoulders.

This being human. This human being. I worked to make it mine.

Whatever else needs doing is whatever else is left. The hunger. The want.

I’ll Write the Girl
Jan Beatty

The thing I’ll never write is the green leaf
with its rubbery-hard veins, I’ll never
write the structure exposed, instead

I’ll write the girl picking it up, green leaf,
her pudgy hand & her wanting it, that’s it,
because she knows the sky is full

of stumbling ghosts, & she’s back in the cold
room, back on the dark floor, & along
so much sky, what does one person do?

She says, bring it to me & devours,
hungry girl, breaks it open, tastes
the day’s first plasma of leaf, first blood

of green on her city street, she takes it
to her like morning’s first kill, &
owns it, stem to point,

& knows her life will always
be this biting open one thing
to leave another, that the only

way she’ll get anything is
with this tiny hammer
in her animal brain

saying: mine,
& again,
& now.

[expand title=”Endnotes” tag=”h6″ expanded=”true”]

This poem appeared in Red Sugar by Jan Beatty, published by University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008. Shared here with profound gratitude.

Read more works by Jan BeattyFind books by this poet • Or view my library 

Explore poems in pursuit of: desirethe bodypersistence • Or browse the index


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Comments (1)

  • “Nobody told me that I’ll always have to carry it, shadows draped around my shoulders.”

    Beautifully said.

    Please keep on.


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