Two Poems By Cate Marvin

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

High School: Industrial Arts

The lesson today is: someone always gets hurt.
Will it be you or another fool? This is a choice.
We provide the tools and materials. The saws,
the wood, nails, and supervision. Fall not now
in love, for it is merely a distraction from your
assignment. Now, create this uninspired name
plaque, build stacks of unstable shelves, lament
your lack of craft as the heat of your lust forms
in vaporous pools on the floor just below your
work table. You thought this class would mean
an easy credit. Welcome to our workhouse. No
one leaves this building whole. Consider now
how this building’s roof’s akin to the lid of a jar,
tightly screwed, and you’re the inhabitant within,
you’re scrabbling at its glass, yet we’ve punched
no holes in that aforementioned lid. Now, make
something! Make something no one can use that
no one wants. Don’t ask why. It builds character.
Someday you’ll look back on these days fondly.
Here are your goggles. There’s the eye-rinsing
station. No, this is not art! Ladies, stand back!
We don’t want you cutting those pretty fingers
off or sawing yourselves in half. This is a man’s
work. You, wipe that smirk off your face. Last
thing I need is one you girls dying on my watch.

High School as a Dead Girl

High School was us and we. We learned our grammar there.
Became devised by bells sawing halls sharp as number two
pencils: we grew thin, grew dark as men in its hallways, we
grew up on men, our breasts their beards, their beards our
breasts, while we cracked open beer cans in the Girls’ Room,
swug down foam minutes before walking into Homeroom.
I was known to be dumb, detentioned, a kill-myself kind of
girl, but it was you who shot herself in the head. What kind
of girl shoots herself in the head? You wanted a quality kill?
Take some sleeping pills, spare your mother the blood-grief.
You always took the hit for me. Turned around in your seat.
Did you hear what they said? Yes, some of us are intending
to go to college.
Loser grief. Then the tarry hot of the parking
lot rose up, black, promising me any boy’s face bent to crack
against my face that was becoming a face: when we wanted
what we all wanted. To be pretty. Which then meant famous.

Cate Marvin co-founded VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Her third book of poems, Oracle, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton & Co. this year.

Sure, take some time to appreciate these. They deserve reflection. Then, once you’re ready, there are plenty more poems to enjoy. Hell, make an afternoon of it. You may contact the editor at