She Sees C's: The Mary Quite Contrary Poem

The poet, all grown up
The poet, all grown up

She Sees C’s


Mary Mary

Cawing voices mocked the cloistered child

As she clumsily clipped her way home

I was thirteen the first time that a boy flung the C word out at me

He cast it across the classroom as though he were clever

I cast my glance across to the educator who closed his eyes and turned away

(Although he called me over later to say we could talk about it in private, wink, wink)

I crossed my gaze back across the claustrophobic room

Cutting the cruel boy down with a cool look

But the way that he carelessly spat the C word slang at my emerging self

Had cut crevices in to my core with vicious claws

Canyons which would remain raw, then calloused, for years to come

When I got home, I cried angry cries, gulping that C word into my core

And the C word became the dominant word in the vocabulary of my self image


Mary Mary

Quite Contrary

She guards herself against cruelty

With the protection of a sullen countenance

And the silence she doesn’t know will hurt her later

Childhood caved into adolescence

And decisions were forced as opportunities crumbled around me

Groups of girls cast C words at my soul in whispered circles

Groups of boys acted as comfort from the cacophony of cruel gossip

But boys will be boys, as they say

And catcalls are not as comforting as they may seem on the surface

The C word is always close at hand

And by the end of my adolescence, I had cocooned myself

Making me the center of an ever-shrinking world

I created courses of obstacles and barriers to be busted only by

The carefully consistent pressure of persistent characters

Contrary, they called me. Closed-off. Cold. Crazy.

I horded new C words to replace the old

Building my self image with a barrage of bricks from strangers.

Letting none come close.


Mary Mary

Quite Contrary

How Does Your Garden Grow?

She moves into adulthood in desperation

Finding that she absolutely has to create a place for herself

Turning men away in favor of spending time with a group of older women

Healers, she considers them, confusing the promise of acceptance with unconditional love

At 19, I claimed my C’s

I grew up decades beyond the blazing burn of bras

But I cloaked myself within a community of women

Considered feminism an escape from loneliness even if I didn’t

Concur with the crowd

I let my C cups become my armor

Let the C word become my mantra

Took back its power because the crone of the crowd guided me to do so

Told me that I could be that C word with conviction

Instead, I was a cuckold

I took the crone at her word until the day I called her and

Got a faraway voice saying she had skipped town with a man

I felt the C word well up inside my throat

And I wanted to cast it out at her

Make her hurt the way she hurt me

But I closed the O of my mouth

Swallowed the C word shamefully

Cut myself off from emotion


Mary Mary

Quite Contrary

How Does Your Garden Grow?

With Silverbells and Cockleshells

She forces herself to form a new community

To take the place in of the community that failed her

Because she knows that she cannot exist entirely alone

She decides that she belongs among the outcasts and the heathens

Creates her home with a group of addicts and artists

At 21, I calmed the singed edges of my burning pain

With cocktails and cigarettes on the back porch of a poetry café

And found within its walls a culture of creativity

Circles of poets came together in close quarters

Causing a convolution of not-so-revolutionary art

To swirl in the cold chill of the air and warm the hearts of the castaways

But I couldn’t call myself a poet

And I couldn’t see myself except in the reflections of poet’s eyes

I met a man there and closely aligned my character with his caress

Coasting along for two years

On the connection of two incompatible souls

Creating a place for one another in the shadows

When he left for the last time, it was in anger

He turned to me and spat the c word across the room

It had become a little c

And I felt nothing


Mary Mary

Quite Contrary

How Does Your Garden Grow?

With Silverbells and Cockleshells

And Pretty Girls All In A Row

The older she gets, the more she realizes

That each year preceding this one was only a child’s year

And as she gets further and further away from her childhood self

She sees that she is no longer forced to be only what the world says she is

She picks and chooses her own self-definitions

Her vocabulary has broadened

At 25, the C word was not a big C

It wasn’t even a little c

It had been supplanted by the sea within my soul

A sea which welled up within me

Swelled and crested and caused a creation of my own concepts

To come together

C’s connected me to my past and could be seen in my future

But the c word was no longer the word I centered myself around

At 25, I could suddenly see that there were 25 other letters in the alphabet

And C ceases to define me


About the Poem

She Sees C's is from a series of poems in which I took the original phrasing from well-known nursery rhymes and added my own language to alter the intended meaning of the poems. All of those poems were about the kids I'd worked with in the social service system except for this one which is a biographical poem.

I had to adapt the formatting of this poem to fit into the HubPages format. In the original, the lines that are in italics without bolding are aligned on the right side of the page. This creates a poetic format in which the original words of the poem grow in bold on the left, the third person vision of the situation is on the right and then the first person experience is back on the right. The third person perspective grows in length through the poem to reflect the growth of more objective perspective gained as I aged.

This poem was a challenge to write in terms of sticking not only with that format but also with the repetitive use of various C words. I did a lot of editing to come up with a final version that I love. I hope you do, too.

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Comments 4 comments

graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 4 years ago

Nursery rhymes are observations about patterns of behavior - you are digging into why so many people act according to these patterns. They are all very well done. I think you could write a book about the phychological truths behind nursery rhymes.


Johanna Baker profile image

Johanna Baker 4 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

Very insightful, Kathryn, well done. Thought provoking at the very least.


tlmntim9 4 years ago

Ooo la la.

Yep, she be all growd up, then some, says I.

Captivating!

Tim W

tlmntim9


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