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Teen poet on loss, growth and ‘the struggle’ of the physical being

In her poem, “I’m Sorry I’m Not a Hugger,” teen poet Madeleine LeCesne writes about loss and growth and “the struggle of being a physical being.” LeCesne is the Southwest National Student Poet, the nation’s highest honor for teen poets presenting original work. We caught up with her at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference in Minneapolis in April.

I’m Sorry I’m Not a Hugger

My body was meant to give birth to a deer.

A human child would surely result in a hemorrage and I know this because of the way I chew


only half a piece as if the size of my mouth is any indication of the breadth of my hips.

I’ve got a delicate constitution. This means I have a gag reflex and an antebellum debutante’s

sense of direction.

The snap of bones in a mouse trap.

I could love a deer because they look like me. Bones unaccustomed to civilization.

I will run fast enough to escape this world.

Did the white mother with the hoodwinked eggs feel different giving birth to the black child?

Feel its limbs tearing through her and realize the world would never judge them as her

Something’s off.

Remember the mini van I saw the other day. The one with a yellow bird carcass hemmed to its

bumper. I can bend like that if you watch me

because you’re always looking for parts of my body scattered around this town built like a


Skin the color of a deer.

I do not crystallize in my sleep but I’d like to, so thank you for seeing me that way. Butterfly you


Exactly two letters and three emails have been addressed to me as “dearest creature.” Make me a

dearest human

mother who said she would build a womb if only for me.

But you swaddled me as an infant, so really, I’m over embraces

because you see the fear I hold when my body is discovered

as a body. Run faster

these arms will make a pin prick out of you.

Madeleine LeCesne is currently serving as the Southwest National Student Poet, the nation’s highest honor for teen poets presenting original work. She is a graduating senior at Lusher Charter School in New Orleans. Madeleine began writing poetry when she was 6 years old. After her parents gave her an antique bed, each night she used the back of its headboard to scribble poetry into the wood. She lost this work in 2005, when the headboard and her home were washed away by Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans, like her own identity, is a blend of various cultures and bloodlines, so her work deals with unscrambling her identity and sparked an interest in genealogy as well as the city’s history. Among the writers she looks to for guidance are Anne Carson, Kimiko Hahn and Anna Moschovakis.

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