Paula by Hafizah Geter

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. 

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