Laura Kasischke

Miss Congeniality

There’s a name given
after your death
and a name you must answer to while you’re alive.

Like flowers, my friends—nodding, nodding. My
enemies, like space, drifting
away. They

praised my face, my enunciation, and the power
I freely relinquished, and the fires
burning in the basements

of my churches,
and the pendulums swinging
above my towers.
And my

heart (which was a Boy Scout

lost for years in a forest). And my

soul (although the judges said
it weighed almost nothing
for goodness had devoured it).

They praised my feet, the shoes
on my feet, my feet
on the floor, the floor—
and then

the sense of despair
I evoked with my smile, the song
I sang. The speech
I gave
about peace, in praise of the war. O,

they could not grant me the title I wanted

so they gave me the title I bore,
and stubbornly refused
to believe I was dead
long after my bloody mattress

had washed up on the shore.