Dear Rhiannon

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Dear Rhiannon,

Bless you for believing when I said I’d backup danced
for Paula Abdul. Bless your sister, who barely arched
an eyebrow when you, all awe, shared the story I’d spun.

New kid in town, I invented a past to shimmy
my way into your skinny, strawberry blonde, hip-hop
heart, to smother that other history: the hustle

of my mother, the twelve steps of rehab, the shuffle
from one home to the next. This fiction, the only sway
I held, I ran it into the ground, choreographed

our dates so you’d never see the shed where I slept, shook
off your requests. In your room, I’d crack open the rock
of my lie, show you its glittering insides. You’d grind

against that jagged part of me, honing your own slide
into a new life, where you’d ditch your sister’s place, swirl
around a pole, your hair dragging the ground when you’d flip

upside down. Or that’s how we’d imagined it. I skipped
out after the night you dialed the music up loud, turned
a pirouette, remnant of childhood lessons, and dipped

into an arabesque, leapt, reached for me as you whirled.
Bless you for never mentioning how I stumbled, dropped
my clumsy feet beside your fleet kicks. Bless the rhythm,

how you got lost in it, radiant, while I got down
on my knees, numb and bruised, and prayed for a truer tune
to sing to you, for a tongue brave enough for the blues.

[spacer height=”20px”] Click here to read Jennifer Perrine on the origin of the poem.

Jennifer Perrine: [spacer height=”20px”]In December of 2015, I had the urge to write letters to girls with whom I’d been close friends in junior high and high school. I’ve since fallen out of contact with almost all of them, and as I jotted notes about what I might want to tell them now, I found myself listing apologies for my adolescent behavior. The writing of “Dear Rhiannon” began, then, as a messy prose outpouring of guilt about an outrageous lie I once told. As I carved a poem out of that first draft, I reimagined the context—not two 13-year-old friends, but girlfriends in their early adulthood—and used the language of music and movement to give the poem its shape. Despite this transformation, the poem ended where it began, I suppose: with a desire to be caught out, to reveal the ugly truths that generated the pretty lies.

Photo “Monkey Bars” by jeromee71; licensed under CC BY 2.0

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