Three Poems by Lexi Pelle

Ode To My Mother’s Thong

When she’d reach for the bargain bread
or to smooth the fanned bangs Kate cut

with craft scissors playing beauty parlor,
I’d see it: cotton Y peeking over her Levi’s—

I remember being mad that she’d do this,
be beyond me, not my mom, disco

the post-divorce dance of undressing
in front of the Winnie-the-Pooh

stickered mirror. Pink with printed
strawberries. Cotton gusset. Tiny bow.

It love lettered the laundry basket, slingshot
me into my life like the birds

I colored penciled onto computer paper,
arching the single-line strokes

to show they were very far away.
Now she’s behind me in the pink

dressing room while I try one on
for the first time, pull on my leggings,

and look at her in the 3-way mirror,
Are you sure you can’t see anything?


I Try On The Strapless Top

while my mother is at the store, probably
squeezing lemons or searching
in her oversized pocketbook for coupons.
It’s polyester, pop-star purple, and in it
I feel radiant, like the shine that coats Cassie’s
learner’s permit. All week it hung
in my mother’s closet, dangled from the
hanger’s trouser clips. God knows
where she planned on wearing it. I stand
in front of the full-length mirror that hangs
on the back of the closet door and marvel
at what my new breasts can do, can stop
from falling. The plush, perfect physics
of elastic and connective tissue. Two buoys
marking how far out into adulthood I can swim
before some lifeguard calls me back. Bandeau.
Tube top. Tunnel to privacy which I was
surprised to learn did not mean becoming
my mother. The dance of adjustment, lifting
the fabric back up after every breath—
the idea that someone somewhere could look
at a picture of me from the shoulders up
and think I was naked and be wrong about me.


Bleach and Tone

Taylor folds tin foil into my hair while the teenager
to my left talks about her lousy ex. The platinum
blonde on my right says her husband wants to know
what the hell Jessica plans on doing with all those
Irish Step Dancing lessons. In this room we meet
each other’s eyes in the mirror. Should I get a full
or a partial. Taylor doesn’t ask about my fiancé
because I’m not wearing the ring. The air a Bechdel
of bleach. I’m looking at timestamps on my phone
when a 6-ft-something man walks in, brushes past
the receptionist, and kisses me full on the mouth.
Sorry, wrong blonde, he laughs, and looks to my right
for his wife. She looks into her lap. No one says
anything over the blow dryers, the construction
of a new gym across the street, jackhammers
jackhammering. Someone behind me clicks her
acrylics on a counter. I want a full with bangs.


Lexi Pelle (she/her) was the winner of the 2022 Jack McCarthy Book prize. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, FreezeRay Poetry, Mixtape, Abandon Journal, and 3Elements Review. Her debut poetry collection is forthcoming with Write Bloody Publishing.

Leave a Reply