“Daughter’s Lament,” a poem by Candice Kelsey


Daughter’s Lament

“The ways in which I am my mother’s daughter are infinite.”
~ Roxane Gay


I’m just a blueprint
spread across the drafting table
like warm butter

only I do not melt under
your heavy stone palms pressing
my corners.

Your red pencil a sun dial
ready to cast shadows on my body
this body which is paper
to you, mere plans offered
and nothing more.

Not daughter but design made–

A shade
between Turnbell and Prussian
blue dayflower petals
tiny cradles:

these lines are my mask
careful measurements
my song.

of the original, ultraviolet light
my mother and father.

I am not easily altered
the scales unreliable.
My skin at times

ink soaked once
the excess has washed away.

I see what you want to erect.

That wrought iron vane appearing
through the bay window
plate glass

some terrible steel sash.

The brick corbels are set
on the right side
to hide wooden lintels
the tower cornice.

But you must suit your lot
improve the aesthetics.
Birth lean symmetry
reduce this thigh and that
lengthen then pull to
add more here.

Elbow the workers
to look my way my sashay
of hips
you taught me to offer
that met the morning with a bruise

Unlike my attackers
please roll me up gently
swaddled by some thick rubber band
cylinder coffin click
when your pencil is dull
your corrections complete.

When you realize
this monument to you will never be built
stand in the mirror
unroll your face
find a favorite lipstick
and slash.

Candice Kelsey’s poems have appeared in such journals as Poet Lore, The Cortland Review, Hobart, and Wilderness House—and her work has been incorporated into multiple 3-D art installations. She has been accepted into the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Virginia Quarterly Review‘s Writer’s Conference. A high-school English teacher of nineteen years’ standing, she lives in Los Angeles and serves as a fiction reader for The New England Review. Candice also serves as a writing instructor at her alma mater, Loyola Marymount University.

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