Girl TheoryCaitlin Grace McDonnell
From “99 variations on a Proof”
Parataxis: The father felt all alone. He held his child
on his lap. The daughter felt all alone. She sank into
the darkness of the father’s lap.
First Person: My father felt all alone. He held me on
his lap. I felt all alone. I sank into the darkness of my
Mystical: There was a little portal in the lap that the
girl fell through into deep woods, a shame basement.
Definitional: A father is a man in relation to his child.
A daughter is a girl or woman in relation to both
Lap: the flat area between the knees of a
Archaic: A hanging flap on a garment or saddle.
Porch: A structure attached to the exterior of a building often forming a covered entrance
Contrapositive: If the father does not transgress the
child, the child does not wake him up.
If the child does not wake him up, she has not had a
If the child does not have a bad dream, she does not
have to sleep in the big empty room.
If she does not have to sleep in the big empty room, she does not
see the face of the devil.
If she does not see the face of the devil, she does not
get out of bed.
If she does not get out of bed, he does not hold her on
If he does not hold her on his lap, he has not had a
rift with the mother.
If he does not have a rift with the mother, he does not
hold her on his lap.
Intuitionist: The man and his wife had an argument
about sex and were estranged in the big sea of the bed
when the child came in. The father wanted intimacy
and looked for it elsewhere.
Intuitionist: The father had felt alone as a child.
Omit: He held me on his lap. The lap was moving like
an ocean. I was aware of his
Monosyllabic: I re mem ber. I had no one. You are
the on ly one.
SpringCaitlin Grace McDonnell
Under the surge of the blue—
the black dog leaps on her leash.
The exes text. The soul coughs,
clears her throat. The moment
of change is untraceable. So close
you can taste it. Salt and seaweed.
Citrus, piss. The moon with her wane
wane wane. Can we agree that
the body reinvents itself. A night of
sleep. Sun. Cardamom. Biotin.
The right laugh at the right stop.
Student of the month. Jeans
so clean and warm they let
the belly be. The dog snacks are
called good reasons. Listen,
we can get on planes. The world—
has it always been dying? The same
as us? Let’s have a picnic. Flash
the Eiffel Tower. Forget your keys.
Forget your sad refrain. Forget
that you figured out how to be right
and how that redeems you. I always
forgot whether it was joy or grief
at the end of that Doty poem that
wasn’t small. Like Gluck changed
I love this as I love sex in her mock
of the orange. Like the only thing
that works for chronic pain
is calling it something else. My daughter’s
essay began: We live in a selfish world.
The teacher hung it on the wall.
All my cabinets are open. All my
dream ducts clog. We live in a
selfless world. Wordle was sold
and still, no one gives away the
word. It’s just one day in seventh
grade, my daughter texts me, when
she’s late. The breeze’n fan waits
for enough heat. My phonic magnets
hunger for their lost suffixes. So much
depends on coming back together.