Imogen Cook


An F in womanhood, a grade
that owes itself in part to the flatness
of the chest, to the prepubescent breasts
that will never feed anyone, to the men
who will never touch them or fill the rakish body up with the sex that hurts at first
or with the way that Joseph loved. The shadowed underarms gone unshaved
for a class I was failing anyway and oh God, the loneliness. There are essays
about the loneliness. And there are words
for women like me. I only like some of them.

I have no right to be so cynical towards men
if I won’t lie down and be hurt by them
(in the adequate, ordinary way) I haven’t paid
my entry fee to the club of women who ate before their twenties.
I’m not even hungry and yet
you can still see my ribs when I stretch.
Is there a word for a woman who loves a woman but never learned how to be one,
how to see one independent of
yellow wallpapers, of the Bible, of every straight woman in her family of feeling
so comparatively empty I was fourteen when I started to mourn the mother I might never be I
want a baby. I want to be called baby
but women intimidate themselves with me
as though I am cold-stone cut and scary
as though they could catch the wrong in me. I’m only worthy of the love read as lesser
and I couldn’t even be soft enough for her.

I’ll never pen the universal feminist story
always relegated to the hidden corner
of the library subconsciously somehow nobody takes my womanhood seriously as though I
wasn’t subject to the same men / women / church as though the cut split-ends of hair
correlated to its worth as though I made a sacred vow with which I couldn’t follow through. I
said I want to be a woman but I don’t want to be you.

Sometimes, after I’ve said Hail Mary, I wonder
where all of this began, and where it will end.
Sometimes I ask the virgin and she sits silent, comprehending. Lets me settle in her hands.
Says a woman stays a woman if no women understand.

An F in womanhood, a grade
that owes itself in full to something ripe, and empty, and clean. A blue letter on white paper.
Still water. Still she

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Imogen Cook is a poet and a student of Creative Writing and English Literature at a small university in the south of England. She has read and performed poetry at local and national events and was the ‘Hammer & Tongue’ Brighton champion in 2018, placing third at the national final in London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2019. She doesn’t have an extensive publication history, but she’s only 21, so give her time. You can find more of her work on Instagram @birosmudged or on YouTube @imogencookpoetry.