Monday, August 20, 2012

Cassandra de Alba



It's my second month at Redgate, and my hands
have started shaking. A young offenders' home
intended for boys
isn’t a place with many mirrors
so it could’ve begun somewhere else, my face
growing into an unreflected stranger, a girl

whose lips wouldn't part if I smiled. I
spend a lot of time sitting on my hands,
staring at the side of the psychiatrist’s face.
He asks about my mother, about home,
about guilt and consequences and those two boys.
I ask to see a mirror.

He chuckles, says there are no mirrors,
rewords another question. I'm the only girl
in this overflowing building of messed-up boys
and they know: what I've done with my hands,
why I'm here. I don't talk to them, don't call this home.
Without looking, I can tell: I wear my crime all over my face.


When the TVs once again evening-news my face,
it is nothing like looking in a mirror.
The vans crowd around our house,
a swarm of pointing fingers. My daughter
is doing her math homework, hands
busy with geometry, half-dreaming about some boy.

My knees give out as the reporter
from Channel Five yells my name, my real name, face
hidden by a megaphone. My daughter's hands
stop moving and she looks at me, a mirror
of confusion. I am not a name to scare girls
with, not tabloid fodder—I am her mother. This is home.

The police smuggle us under blankets out of our house.
She stares wide-eyed at the boys
crowding the sidewalk, the girls
so eager for a glimpse of my face.
I watch them in the cop car's rearview mirror.
I take my daughter's hands.

I say, When I was a girl I didn't have a home.
My hands sought out the necks of little boys.
A dead child’s face was like looking in a mirror.

Cassandra reads "Broken Sestina for Mary Bell":

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Cassandra confesses: "I'm fascinated by the story of Mary Bell, who killed two young boys as a small child, writing 'There has been a boy who Just lay down and Died' in her school journal after the first murder. Much of this poem was inspired by Gitta Sereny's Cries Unheard."

CASSANDRA DE ALBA lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. She's published several chapbooks and performed on three National Poetry Slam teams. Her work has appeared in Amethyst Arsenic and Red Lightbulbs.

1 comment:

Aps said...

Dear Cassandra,

Your sestina is beautiful. It reads wonderfully with a definite flow. I admire the ease with which it seems to have be written - although we all know writing a sestina can sometimes be rather challenging.

I'd like to see more controlled writing like this. Congratulations.