This week’s poem offers a troubling and refracted portrait of a woman’s very public disassembling. Rather than hold that portrait at an arm’s length, the poem implicates us all in it.

Arisa White teaches creative writing at Colby College and is the author of several chapbooks and three full-length collections, including her most recent, “You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened,” published by Augury Books in 2016. “Biddy Mason Speaks Up,” a middle-grade biography in verse on the midwife and philanthropist Bridget “Biddy” Mason that she co-authored, was published by Heydey Books in 2019.

Screaming Woman

By Arisa White

Our recipe for loving her,

a poison that grows stronger

with each independent breath.


She runs through street-lit avenues,

lets off arms, undresses her heart

in the intersection’s fist.


By horns, by swears she’s a woman thirsting

to scream her story after years in god’s parchment—

the taste of “I love her” is first kiss to oasis.


Heavy the confession, it split her.

Too much air in private matters makes her parents dim.

Back into their care sirens release her.


Spoon-fed weight to keep her balance

and a lullaby that courts and holds sleep.


This is desired of whispered women

who’ve gone mad on Robinson Parkway;

her children seeing her as the day she was born.


Niece, the door you’ve unhinged frightens us all.

We don’t welcome the body’s return

to bring present a shame we can’t assimilate,

a future that shows us we are not skilled.


We drink, puff a little bit more,

go for broke, swing when bells go off.

Go but stay and staying with proper faces.


We expect the young ones to live the lives we failed,

not open our chorus of jars, lit green

and continuous as an eggshell.


Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is a poet who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2010 Arisa White. It appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to

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