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Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling

Lucy Frank is the winner of the 2011 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship for her manuscript, Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling, a novel in verse. Read an excerpt below.

FIRST DAY

And Suddenly

Everything
you thought
you knew
you don’t.

Because you’ve stepped
off the edge
of your life
into sickland.

 

Bedpan

Let’s

not

go

there.

 

So Far From How

Faces bob
like smiley-face balloons,
sticking, testing, asking
how I am. I smile back:
Not too bad.

Except my teeth weigh too much
to move my mouth,
this bed’s a raft floating me so far
from who I am,
my head can’t grab onto the how.

 

Mom

“Let’s talk about happy things. Like that pistachio ice cream with the cherries
we always get at Moon Palace for your birthday, not that I’m saying
that’s where we should go, you probably shouldn’t eat
the nuts anymore, or the cherries, or ice cream,
for that matter. We should pick someplace
special this year. I mean, eighteen
calls for someplace really special,
I can’t believe you’ll still
be in the hospital next week,
though if you are …
I mean … we’ll just
bring the party here.

“I’m wondering
if we should
call your dad.”

 

SECOND DAY

Morning Is the Time to Sleep

Dreaming my old dreams (hot backseat love
with someone who turns out

to be Mr. Mooney, the custodian;
why are the SATs in Chinese?

my cell’s dropped in the toilet,
and it’s ringing and I know it’s Dad)

Welcoming those Not that again! dreams
like an old familiar “Seinfeld,”

while carts rattle, mops slap,
and conversations filter in

like sun striping
through the blinds.

 

Mint, Chocolate, or Wild Berry

They let you pick the “flavor” of the “shake”
to make your insides glow.

I just have to tell myself it only looks
like plaster of Paris mixed with Elmer’s,

focus on how much already gagged down,
not the pink goo still to go;

force my throat to not close,
gullet to not clench, stomach not to churn,

or they’ll just mix up another batch,
and make me start over.

 

Not Me

Forget a little light reading
to take my mind off things,
lotions, cute cartoons,
pretty notebook for my thoughts,
flowers to brighten up the place.

Give those to that Sheela person,
the sick one, with nothing
on her table but a sippy straw.

Bring me my running shoes,
a black bikini, hot sauce,
a kite, a Bernese mountain dog,
chandelier earrings that throw sparks
in the light, a ticket
to Macchu Picchu.