Marlo Cowan

“My name is Marlo Cowan. I’m currently a tenth grader, and in my free time I like to read, draw, and play guitar and flute. Poetry inspires me because I consider it to be the most visceral form of writing; you have the ability to contain a story within a few lines and still tell it just as effectively.”

Poem on Belonging

NOT A CLOSET

It’s sixth grade and the world, spinning like a top,
hasn’t landed on its side yet.
August catches like gasoline, burns just as fast. 
Someone wrote FEAR GOD in the girls’ bathroom.
In kindergarten a classmate told me I would go to hell someday. 
Et cetera.
Making soap bubbles in the sink, I stare at the words and think how,
in every painting, Jesus is a long-haired man.

In November the sky is chapped and the graffiti
has been removed from the bathroom. 
I say I don’t remember the decision to cut my hair
but really I don’t remember much at all before I cut my hair,
like watching a movie once and not remembering enough,
years later, to find the title. 
Heard it was about me, don’t know if it was any good. 
We go home for Christmas and all I can think,
with old photos rooted to the mantle, 
dresses hanging in the closet like sheep in a slaughterhouse,
is that I’ve outlasted myself.

January, and the West Coast winter is peeling itself off the walls.
Time gives me a hard look as it passes
and, in endless dialogues with my bedroom ceiling,
I debate how long I could possibly wait.
We live in California no one will care but
swastikas in the bathroom the other day and
how many people do you know who use the word fag so
wait till summer but
tell your friends at least but
maybe they’re too young to understand so
maybe you’re too young to know so
wait until high school or
do it tomorrow or
do it in the car on the way to school or
do it clothes shopping at the mall or
better to wait until summer. 
I don’t know how to say it other than
an object at rest stays at rest. 
And it’s not a closet so much as a bubble, really,
lathered hands of time squeezing either side.
Lathered with soap.
Lathered with summer.
The words stake their footholds and climb up my throat
inch by inch.
January 22nd, and I pop. 

Copyright © 2022 Marlo Cowan. Used with permission of the author.