How to Kill The Girl

A Poem

By Laura Thurlow


You’ll have to find her, first
Find a time warp in the river
Journey back, ’06, years ago
Find her and make her pay for
The person you turned out to be.

That’s not her fault, though, is it?
Will you cast yourself another villain
In the pain we put her though
We, all of us, the world, time
Who do you think is at the end of this?
To forgive the sins that you cannot?

There was so much of her, that girl
She couldn’t find a place to land
There are no places for girls like that
There weren’t then and there aren’t now
She is already a relic of a pain we no longer speak of.

’20, now, we’re body-posi. We’re self-fulfilment.
We’re “find your joy”, we’re “Beauty Myth” come to thrive
Don’t shave your armpits but if you do but if you do
Buy the razor from a company with a woman’s name
It was different then! That girl, she scarred her armpits so bad
That they would bleed and itch and now they’re lumpy
Hideous, forever. Born five years short of the revolution, perhaps.

Don’t be beautiful, but if you do, if you do, use your platform to speak peace
Recognise the power that was blooming all along, speak of peace
Market ugly rage another day. Don’t be freckled but if you are freckled
Make sure they were ethically tattooed. Eyebrows, too.

You can’t kill the girl. Not yet, you still want to hear the end of the story, don’t you?
You still think that there’s a chance and
You’re not sure what you’d change, after all
You’re not sure you had the power then, to know how to stem the pain
You still don’t. You didn’t know then, but you found out that there were monsters, everywhere
That every hand that held you, monstrous, that every word that pained you, envious
“You just don’t like people, Girly. That’s why people don’t like you.
I think you won’t be in your prime till you’re thirty.
I can see you happy then, Big Nose. Wide thighs. Small lips.”
You watch her by the poolside, squinting under August heat
Her milky skin spread everywhere. Strawberry Blonde, some people would say.
You loved that swimsuit. You still love it. It held you, tight inside. Back then you could swim for ninety minutes, barely need to breathe.
You think you’ll let her live till thirty. There might be something, then.
You watch her leap into the water, come submerged, it will take an hour to comb the knots
from waist-length hair.
One of the men, he told you it was a blanket, he screamed it at you he
Tried to scream the shy away. He layered on the pain. He didn’t mean it. No one does.
No one thinks of you at all.
You let her swim away, alone. You wish that you could be her, again. Sit here all summer under the shade of Dad’s big maple tree. The picnic tree. The helicopter seeds dance on the water’s surface, a pantomime of shadows beckons you.
You won’t get back in this pool till ’18. One day, when you are sure no one is watching.
You will don the blue swimsuit which does not fit quite right (as nothing does or ever will)
You will sink your head under, saltwater in your ears.
You will not call it a baptism but you will think of it often, this and all the joys you have deprived yourself of.
Back in ’20, you will see that it is just a river. That you are a thousand miles from home.
How wonderful it would be, if the body was a home. If you could take it everywhere, with you.
How wonderful would it be, if you hadn’t tried to kill the girl.
You’ll cut off all her hair, when she is thirty.