As a somewhat curmudgeonly 28-year-old, I’m not sure if I’m a Millennial, a Gen X’er or Y’er, or just lost between them all. I am a child of the 1990s, though, and so is this poem. I first heard “paula” in a hot room full of cold poets, the winter night drained from the sky long before. Hafizah Geter made this poem ache like the 1990s made me ache — it’s truly a coming-of-age poem. It’s a poem between best friends who’ve shared secrets, who’ve envied and loved deeply at the same time. It articulates that imbalance in friendships; everyone’s growing up and one half of the pair is still stuck in girlhood, trying to figure out how to be cool. “paula tells me that sadness is like a girl / in a striped shirt. i put this in my book of important things.”
paula by Hafizah Geter
paula says when the moon came out
of her it was like a whitney houston song.
achy and full of high tones. she traces my fingers
over the scar, asks do i want to be beautiful too.
paula sucks on fireballs all day, says she knew
the 90s would be like this. i watch as she twists
the corner of her t-shirt around her finger and threads it
through a hot pink clip, her stomach glowing like a street lamp.
paula calls me late at night, says that this is a dream.
i wake to find her in the floorboards,
her laugh opening the curtains. she smiles
and says, the day she was born she watched god
die in a fire. we spend the afternoon nailing flowers
to our mothers. paula leads me to water,
says we are the baptism. together
we watch as summer drains the sky.
i show her how night lifts the windows,
but she says, it’s just her father’s hands.
after too much, paula tells me that sadness is like a girl
in a striped shirt. i put this in my book of important things.
Rebellious Women in Poetry (brought to you by rebellious women) is made possible by rebellious women. “paula” first appeared in So To Speak. Hafizah Geter is a South Carolina native currently living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a Cave Canem Fellow and the recipient of a 2012 Amy Award from Poets & Writers. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in BOXCAR Poetry Review, RHINO, Drunken Boat, New Delta Review, Memorious, Linebreak,Vinyl, and Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art. Find her online at www.hafizahgeter.com. The introduction is by Jessica Dyer, a writer & editor who lives in Chicago. Find her at jocundjessica.tumblr.com.