Northwords Now

New writing, fresh from Scotland and the wider North
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Shopping Week Queen

by Ingrid Leonard

Children line up to pick a queen
who’ll give a speech she doesn’t write
in a debutante’s gown, her ladies
carried through town in a pony
and trap, cutting ribbons, pinning
rosettes on pressed lapels.
        There’s a cell
at the foot of my heart’s stairwell
whose walls are pasted with the un-
voiced words of what girls should be –
it’s piss-soaked, shadowy. It says smile
and never speak of painful sex
or messed-up tests, homoerotic boys,
or a despair that changes the colour
of the sky. Don’t have strong opinions,
get spots, never say anything so clever
it confounds.  
          I’m crying in a minidress
outside Matchmakers, speaking out
of turn to a guy who’s stuck his hand
up my skirt, expletives unfurling
in my mouth, scenting the air with their
hard musk.
           On the island’s other side,
creamy hand-picked girls accept posies,
tilt heads into smiles for dumbstruck boys,
vicarious parents with chests upswelling
at the doings of their gentle daughters

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