“Still Life with Guns”
by Molly Rose Quinn

it’s in the math room
when the boys
fantasize first
about the black girl
called Frankie who shot
herself with her toes
around the trigger.
the boys slump
at their desks
in wrinkled khaki
and muddy boots,
they flick their thick
unwashed hair back
and rub their tongues
over fever blisters.
after death
Frankie wore ribbons
on her skull and tied them
around other things
like nightmares.
Frankie she was called
and she was a black
girl with a white mom
and she was buried
at The Lawn at Idlewild.
she used to fuck a girl
called Emy who had
some unknown disability
and wore tweed coats
to school even on a hot day.
the boys they never knew
Frankie till she died
though they talked
about her then
and all the time
and later on.
they stomped
their lanky legs,
they served detention,
they drank in barns.
and they dreamed about
Frankie’s knobby shoulders
and the hairs on her neck.
we say: she found
the way out. and we
blame her for nothing.
the summer after Frankie
curled her big toes
around that shot gun,
I bring all those
nasty southern boys
into my bedroom and run
my tongue over them,
closing my eyes
so I can’t see
Frankie’s floating head
outside the windows.

 

Molly Rose Quinn was raised in Memphis, Tennessee, where this poem takes place. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, where she was the Editor-in-Chief of LUMINA. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is a poetry editor for The Fiddleback and teaches writing to teenagers with The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop.