Five Poems – Cassandra de Alba


The only living girl in America

Nine years old and my favorite daydream
is the one where everyone’s vanished. 
I’m old enough for a license 
and I drive across abandoned America:
ignore speed limits, break into houses, 
rummage drawers and sleep 
in the queen-sized beds 
of strangers. 

This is what I thought about 
while the well-adjusted girls 
planned their weddings. 
I never imagined myself 
with a faceless groom and a white dress
but I remember the woman
I did not grow up to be:
long light-colored hair, muscular arms
and either a dusty red pickup 
or one of those low, squared-off cars 
the old movie stars emerged from at premieres—
only I am at a filling station in the desert,
watching the sun set, secure
in the selfish knowledge 
that the whole country is mine.

impossible futures

there is a way back & there is not.
the swans in the mill pond
have abandoned their nest again,
second straight year, reeds
twisting tighter every day
around the lack they left behind.
my mother watches me scramble
down the point, peer across the water
into a tangle of dead kindling. 
she wants me to tell her 
a miracle, fluffed signets
in a crunch of shell,
but i can’t see anything,
and i can’t lie.

Time Machine

I’m sorry, everyone and especially mom,
but I would not kill Hitler first. 
I’d go pick myself up
from the seventh grade
and I’d take us to see Bikini Kill
in 1993. I’d get her some zines
and a homemade t-shirt
and we’d stand in the front,
let the boys stare at the sweat
on the backs of our necks.
Let my seventh-grade self
know that nothing comes
between her and what she likes,
especially not men, let
the drums and bass and guitar
and Kathleen Hanna’s voice
be a clatter of tin cans 
between the bedrooms
of all the girls who felt like us
but weren’t telling. Let her know
that her body is a drum kit
with the right to crash and beat
and bang, that she can add
as many Rs as she wants
to her own angry name.

Rabid Raccoon, Prescott Quad, November ‘07

So cold I couldn’t smoke a cigarette
without alternating hands, 
shoving one and then the other 
into the relative warmth
of the pocket of my jeans. We ran inside
for thicker jackets, heard a scuffle and rocks
hitting the wall; Sean said it chased him
and then darted for the woods. What did you
expect, we asked, who was that waving
a lighter in its face—when a girl ran 
down the path toward us, messenger bag
flying behind her. You won’t believe
what just happened! she squeaked,
and we all made a second of eye contact
before I said Got chased? Raccoon?
She smiled weakly, walked off into the night.
A year later, when I heard she’d killed herself
out west, all I could think of was the cop
we called, how long he took to get there,
how he shone his flashlight around for a minute
and told us not to worry 
about anything.

Assembly Line for Grief

It’s almost all automatic now, but there are still a few people hard at work 
putting together your grief. For example, Rosa makes sure the wheels are on 
right and Henry does all the fussy details in the paint, the tiny lettering 
and scrollwork that need a human touch. Alberta adds the flashing lights that 
signal when your grief is becoming overwhelming, or fading out like a Polaroid 
left in the sun. You wouldn’t want a robot in charge of calibrating that; grief 
has its own specialized mechanics that have nothing to do with metal and gears
and Alberta, who has buried a husband, two children, and six dogs, understands 
those subtleties better than anyone else at the plant.

About Cassandra de Alba

Cassandra de Alba is a grad student in the greater Boston area. Her work has appeared in Skydeer Helpking, The Nervous Breakdown, and Vector Press, among others. She can be found online at and @cassandraintroy. View all posts by Cassandra de Alba

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