Monica McClure

Monica McClure’s debut poetry collection, Tender Data, will be published by Birds, LLC in 2015. She is the author of the chapbooks, Mood Swing, from Snacks Press and Mala, published by Poor Claudia. Her poems and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin House, Jubilat, Fence, The Los Angeles Review, The Lit Review, Lambda Literary Review’s Spotlight Series, The Awl, Spork, Intercourse, CultureStrike and elsewhere. She co-curates Gemstones, a girls-mostly collaboration series of new media artists and poets. With Brenda Shaughnessy, she is editing an anthology of biracial American writers.



I typed a message that cost ten cents
to a guy who couldn't read
At the mall the vendors
sold translucent cases
for chubby Motorolas

What was I supposed to say to a woman like her
For months the water was rationed
Horses rolled
on their collicked bellies

My mother said don’t look so scared
out in public
Why are you so chiflada with your
nails sticking in your teeth

I wanted mass cultural desire to prostrate
at my walls, mutant munecas
in their configurations of play and discipline

I wanted
Britney Spears’ perfect midriff, my fingers slicing
water shocked with tablets
My palms sought the contours
of a psychosocial muse

Not the handbag
but the Graces that eluded me

But instead of duende I got voluptuaries
lusty for wind chimes
and frozen food

The bellybutton was the
erogenous zone of the early 2000’s
a bronze bedknob of tween
sexuality, it wasn’t actually

getting anyone off
only rubbing the undraped curtains
of their Blockbuster shelf dreams

On the north side, bare waists sloshed
through films of hair products, swirling in the pool

Where the city controlled the power box
the projects lit up at curfew, extraterrestrial
under lime green gels

It was a rumor industrial complex
based on quasi Christian
media fantasies:

the abstinence of Britney Spears
and the allegiance
of school shooters to Satan

of unlicensed day care centers to Satan
of Mexicans to ritual murder
of blue-eyed boys
for Satan

Thong underwear, neutered
by its utility, the end of pantylines
Black lights vanish cellulite
and turn you smooth and brown

Something’s got you covered, even fingers hanging
like tentacles from the lower lip

There’s a stripper inside all of us
or so we hoped

Rhinestone Irish crosses bubble wrapped
over push-up bras
She clicked her acrylic nails on the keys
and balanced her risks

To stabilize the costs of our choices the women
joined together in air-conditioned
rooms for civil gossip

I had to keep my head down, chiflada
around people whose people
were invested in a localized history,
its ineluctable modality
of the folkloric

Given limited resources
the choice to bare full midriff
at whatever cost incurred was
so chiflada
like who did I think I was

One minute Elvis
and the next a shrinking violet

I hadn’t learned how to masturbate yet
but sometimes with my bladder full
I felt pressure

Chiflada, alone for hours
turned inward like the eyes of the well-bred, demurely
looking down
at their antebellum waistlines

The cops were sexual predators and racists
circling the projects, staring down
the wall where The White Front protected
its Rapunzels in bandanas

People said don’t be so chiflada
with your boyfriend’s mother

The boys sat on the walls and smoked blunts
dipped in embalming fluid
The girls went jacking in the town

I learned the two worst
things about county jail are

the pale lights that never go off
and disposable underwear

Lip gloss is meant to insinuate
that the wearer has just slobbered
over something too big
for her mouth

Glistening and fruity
how we took the Limited Too
in our JCPenney's bags all summer

However lethargic I was from pressing
my bladder
into the cool springs
of my parents’ mattress

However sore my ears from sleeping
on the phone, the glow
of VH1 pinkening the walls

In her ugly refurbished kitchen
with my shirt pulled down
I tried not to be chiflada when she was saying
this man

is making my panties wet
Tonight I’m bringing home
a new daddy for you

And I didn’t yet get how impoverished
opportunities can be
when you’re acting chiflada
with the auctioneer

Feeling entitled to a solace of oneself
while the talkers take seats and organize
the festival parade

Turner Classic Movies with my hand
in my cheerleading shorts
as Deenie Loomis backs
into Bud’s dark car
with her red bangles trembling
like toy cymbals

My boyfriend whose body
was scaffolded against feeling and thus more
like a girl’s body, hairless
and so masochistically sunburned

I get that
I’m lacerating with passion
on the salon chairs at Suzie’s Secrets
acting chiflada, the wrong way

In public I am quiet and vain

My boyfriend’s fathers
were washed up bull riders
One died in the kitchen, the other
fondled his sister

But the pool
was blue salve, cool as indemnity

Potions of amnesia swallowed
with chlorine and Hawaiian Punch
from her pointed pinky thimble

Town beauties who married last year were
widows by now
How did they get so fat so fast

Her boss was paying
for the in-ground pool and the cars
in the driveway got fixed up

I had maybe the cutest stomach, inflected enough
to be well gripped and lifted
I dreamt large needles
passed through it like wet clay

There will be another luncheon this year
for the ladies of the town
Even the festival queens who were stripped
of their crowns
for getting pregnant unmarried
will sip lightly

Liqueurs of preservation taken
with the nose pinched and hair furled
in non-referential foam rollers

She sat under the press box, a creation
goddess drawing the sex
on her son’s taut pelvis as we sat

in the brief infinity
of our nymphic fever youth

Teenage women crowded by her feet, but I
was too good to say hi, too chiflada
to make small talk

Because I worried about getting caught
under the heel
of a passing epoch
that’s all about Like Whatever
and talk to the ineffectual hand

Audre Lorde said shyness is shit
and she’s right
The redneck aspiring bourgeoise
is not breaking eye contact
anytime soon

One afternoon in the American Legion Hall
my Uncle Tommy was pointing at me, saying
that little white girl over there
is my niece

And I got that too
The windowless dark, the primeval smoke
of sausage and cigarettes where they
exposed their absurd prizes, unashamed
to be with each other

while the canons squatted in the heat
like tired pickers
and the chismosas lumbered
down the grocery aisles making faces
making eyes

But in the dark it wasn’t chiflada
The vets unbuttoned their shirts
past their bellies
and I was shown how to rub the blue
chalk over the cue
and take aim at the corners

Though I couldn’t stop making faces
or quite sink into a soft water there
or so far anywhere

There is no such thing as class
without propriety

Decorum in lieu of ownership
is called putting on airs like
wearing white muslin to eat tamales
in a yard of dirt

Money buys time, but no money buys nothing
but time, and there was no relief
from the pressure that spread across my waistband

In the pool I swayed
with only their bodies, simple people so tractable
and pointlessly corrupt

The girls in their boy shorts
pretending to be pushed in
by the boys, growing
more native
with every chemical splash


Video produced in New York, July 2014.