Poem of the Week | June 14, 2021

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Community Theater Production of Annie, Age 12″ by Dorsey Craft!

Dorsey Craft is the author of Plunder (Bauhan 2020), a collection of persona poems from the Pirate Anne Bonny and the winner of the May Sarton NH Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry Daily, Southern Indiana Review and elsewhere. Dorsey holds degrees from Clemson University, McNeese State University, and Florida State University. An Assistant Poetry Editor at AGNI, she lives and writes in Jacksonville, FL. You can find out more at https://www.dorseycraftpoet.com.

 

Community Theater Production of Annie, Age 12

There are two wigs: one is a stray dog,
scrounged from the crushed box
in the backstage attic. Snarls of sweet-
potato orange, furls like the ones
you’ve spread in the bathroom mirror,
squatting atop the sink in the same stretch
you do circled up at gymnastics, purple velvet
leotard cloaking what you thought would be
pretty, a cat’s nose, a pink seashell, but is more
like gazing down your own throat:
wads of red around a darkness leading deep,
into the parts that catch disease
and digest food, into where Jesus is rumored
to bide his time like a jack-in-the-box,
coiled somewhere between the entrances
waiting for you to open your eyes
during the blessing. The other wig
was special-ordered, taut as an opening-
night rose, auburn curls that shine
like your Mary Janes as you bounce
up the stairs of the mansion set,
dancing with the cigarette who plays Daddy Warbucks,
who holds you on his knee during “I Don’t Need
Anything But You,” when you’re wearing
the red and white dress with your silk
training bra underneath, the one your neighbor
gave you with the blue flowers sashaying
across your nipples, the one that makes you realize
you are too old to be a little orphan
with a wig sitting on your head like a possum,
clashing with your summer tan and melting
your mascara when you try to be casual
in front of the blond director. When you peel
it off, your face dripping under the arch
of dusty bulbs, the sawdust smell of backstage
cracking in your lungs, you shake out the damp
brown underneath and straighten
your spine like a church pew, a bitter sliver
of hate lodged like a bobby pin in your scalp.

 

Author’s Note

When I was twelve, I was cast as Annie in a kids’ production at our local community theatre. I was ecstatic and reveled in being the star—I learned all my lines and songs by the first practice. To this day I can conjure the smell of the air backstage, the creaky theatre seats, all the girls who played orphans. I sing the songs in the shower. But there was something odd about playing this kid’s role, the ultimate “little girl” role, and where I was in my age and development. I remember the costume director making a remark about my not-exactly-flat chest and how they were going to have to make my red and white dress from scratch. It was the first time I can remember feeling “too old” for something. It was also the first time I started to recognize the type of borderline/overt/never-ending sexual inappropriateness that girls are subjected to. I felt strange as Annie and people reacted to me strangely, so the poem speaks to that tension while channeling some of the rage that I’m just beginning to realize colored my experience of girlhood.

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