Poetry Cave – Ladylike

ladylike poem


bend down, not over.

I catch my male friends’ eyes straying to my rear,

straighten up immediately, face beet-red

and pulsing hot. I receive a text message

later that night, a photo attached.

black lace panties? that’s hot.

I throw my phone across the room,

stare at the ceiling as something bitter

and sharp claws its way around my chest.


men don’t like a girl with a big mouth.

my high school boyfriend tries to tie my tongue

to the back of my throat, but fire knows no

restraints. I keep my mouth restless, screaming.

he keeps his hands ready.


no one cares if you’re smart or

kind or funny, as long as you’re pretty.

be pretty. it’s all that matters in this world.

I’m in shoes that pinch my toes blistery-pink,

 a dress that squeezes me in all the wrong

places. I burn my hair to anti-frizzy perfection

and wobble to walk straight. a boy catches

sight of me, leans over to his friend to whisper

what he thinks I can’t hear: she’s flat as a board.

I’ll give anyone fifty dollars if they can find her ass.

I go home early and rip my reflection

to pieces in my bare hands.


don’t say yes. but don’t ever say no, either.

what is this fine line I’m straddling? the tongue

that once knew no limits now tiptoes sweetly

in my mouth. I train my face to look coy but sultry

for the nudes he demands, but I don’t know how to ask

 him if he sees me as a human being. in the library,

his hands wander down the front of my blouse. past

the zippers of my shorts. I stare straight ahead, like

I can’t watch my own body’s defilement.

people are staring. they’re saying, what a slut.

they’re saying, this is why you need to act like a lady.