The Defiance of Girls

                      After Alice Neel, Isabetta

She’s a naked imp, hands on hips,
black hair crackling with static, cleft chin tilted.
She’s calculating a break out. She may say fuck.

or kick the glass out of the French door. I did that once.
Tore the dress from its hanger, stamped my new shoes
into fresh tar and would not cry, would not cry

when my mother hit me with a stick.
Isabetta stares straight into the eyes of the artist,
who is her mother. Who believes

she can make this child again. And over.
Capture that springing hair, the long throat. The hand
like a skylark’s claw. I told my girl not to cut her hair,

and she chopped it off in handfuls. Someday
Isabetta will dance for her father a made-up dance,
try a little coke for a lover. The men

are waiting in some other room. But in this north light,
she faces her mother, who knows things about her—
some untrue, the rest already changing. I’ve walked

a long beach in deep fog, my hands filled
with left-behind scraps. Girl shrapnel. I hadn’t foreseen
her genius for damage.  Or where the world would break us.




Gail C. DiMaggio is a teacher of writing, a mother, a widow and a poet who has lived in California, Hawaii, Connecticut, Florida and currently Concord, NH.  Through a long marriage she watched her husband play jazz in a world where no sideman ever gives up a day gig. Good preparation for the turn to poetry. Her work has appeared in Salamander, SlipstreamTishman ReviewIron Horse Review and Magma, and her full-length book, Woman Prime, will be coming in 2018 from Alaska University Press.