Sarah’s Mother Makes Her Long Dresses of Lace ||| Rattle

to hide the wooden brace, slight limp.
Darker than inside a locket, more pungent—
what wood wouldn’t love to live there,

thinks Frankie, the neighbor boy
who’s never said a word to her. He watches
Sarah flick her foot through sand, write tangerine

and starblade and dead girls glow prettiest.
She braids and unbraids her hair, sticks a stick
through a caterpillar—throws one green half

in the grass. Puts the other in her mouth.
Gimp-girl, they say, Limp-a-rella—the ugly Cinderella.
Because she smells of cinder & matchsticks,

wears homemade hand-me-downs—
a patchwork sweater, fox stole, ostrich
feathers in her hair. He sees her at her window,

thinks she studies raindrops on glass, how sad
and brief each life—dissolving
on the sill seconds after they bloom.


Claudia Cortese is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer. Her first book, WASP QUEEN (Black Lawrence Press, 2016), explores the privilege and pathology, the trauma and brattiness of suburban girlhood. Her work has appeared in Blackbird, Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast Online, The Offing, and Sixth Finch, among others. The daughter of Neapolitan immigrants, Cortese grew up in Ohio and lives in New Jersey. She also lives at

Sarah’s Mother Makes Her Long Dresses of Lace” originally appeared in Rattle on June 22, 2012.