Poem of the Week

curated by Meg Day, Allison Adelle Hedge Coke & Niki Herd

Brought to you every weekish—to help you over the hump.


September 29, 2015 / celeste doaks


A Mother-Daughter Rite


Because momma’s a germophobe—a woman

obsessed with a dishless kitchen sink, spot-free glass

tables, and clean vaginas—she taught me how

to toilet paper the seat in the public stalls

of rest stops, airports, diners, and all the places

grown ladies put a bright tube of red to lips before

leaving the mirror. Somewhere around age five, I remember

lifting up my dress and slip and pausing for her

to show me the process. You’ve got to pull it down

real steady, like this, so it won’t crinkle. Then measure

four squares each, two long ones, for the left and right sides,

and then a third, shorter one, which you’ll double-fold,

for the middle—it’s the most important. With each layer she moved

gracefully, a ballet dancer over the commode, not stirring any wind

that might send the makeshift seat soaring to the tile

floor. All the while humming a hymn from last Sunday’s

church service. Watching her hands secure the white covering,

I wondered how many other daughters were shown

this rite. How many other mothers went

through all this to protect the Y, this hidden secret,

between their daughters’ legs?


audio of celeste reading this poem.


Copyright © celeste doaks. 




Curator's notes

Niki Herd: This poem brings to mind all the rituals that come with being a girl; how they make impressions that follow us long into womanhood.





celeste doaks

Poet and journalist celeste doaks is the author of Cornrows and Cornfields, (Wrecking Ball Press, UK). In 2012 she received the Lucille Clifton Scholarship to attend Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. Her work has garnered a variety of accolades including the 2009 Academy of American Poets Graduate Prize, the 2010 AWP WC&C Scholarship, and residencies at Atlantic Center of the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her journalism has appeared in the Huffington Post, Village Voice, Time Out New York, and QBR (Quarterly Black Book Review). Her poems have been published in multiple on-line and print

publications such as Chicago Quarterly Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Bayou Magazine and Beltway Poetry Quarterly. Celeste received her MFA from North

Carolina State University; currently, she teaches creative writing at Morgan State University. www.thedoaksgirl.com
























: : :