Five Poems

Caolan Madden

Stills from a Movie About a Girl Band: #1

In this one I’ve just put my beer down on an amp
and it’s crackling. She’s saying
make the speakers face the other way
I’m saying I want to hear myself
We’re saying I think we came in too late after the bridge
We’re saying I think we messed up the bass solo 
We’re saying I think we were flat on the lead vocal
We’re playing in a circle and a guy is rising up in the middle
from the depths of the 90s, wearing the tambourine
like a crown of thorns
We’re unplugging him and he’s loping off into the night
Years later you see him on the river
floating beautiful silver, marked with the tokens
we kept minting and pelting at him
This one how bad we are. These our desire
These maybe counterfeit our scorn
Man don’t run out of love, we yelled, still throwing



Stills from a Movie About a Girl Band: #2

We come in boxes and boxes. Sold separately.
The boys of America unfold us and kiss the inputs
The boys of America read the fucking manual
& input I got a lot of these heartaches
input if you can’t duck it fuck it input you should mic the snare
I need a little more of me in my monitor we drop
the kick drum in the street
girls who might have been programmed by boys
input Uh, I’m really glad you’re here, girls, but
check it out: I can write a bridge now

We hesitate at the bridge. We cross. Go back.
the output/inscribed by days of yowling
What you have done to me/defies description
We sing it as heterosexual love
mascara running down our faces, we lift up
our faces. But we’ve been doing it to each other
the polyps embossing themselves over and over
a daisy chain closing up our throats
I’ll hold onto this I whisper




Stills from a Movie About a Girl Band: #10

Our keyboardist emerges from the coffin
where Phil Spector kept her seven days, her beehive
spilling down over her shoulders, opening up
to reveal all this infrastructure, horsehair and spirit gum,
those flowers that come scrolling out of the clavichord
cling petal by frilled petal to neck & clavicle

couldn’t leave you if I wanna her eyes say
and her mouth you know I’m not your mama
We come closer make a circle

one by one peel off a petal and swallow it

a third comes out a fifth/until we make a chord
she could sell to get a new synthesizer

We gave our guitarist that Kurt Cobain pedal
and a bag of new picks, 0.9 millimeters thick
or whatever the yellow ones are




 Wuthering Heights


Keep an eye on me. Kristin Hersh

is synesthetic. Does she mean an ear.

I shimmer. Ear’s a sister.


shimmers her retreat.

Not Tanya Donnelly I mean Kate Bush

 when I said

Bad dreams in the night. I woke

up next to Paul but it was Heathcliff

pressing me to the pillow, telling everyone

to yell and keep yelling,

fill my dreams with doubt.


I close my window

over and over again on my wrists.

I show you the pulp, the glass

twinkling in it like stars.


There’s nothing there. Heathcliff

It’s me Cathy I’m home now. It’s hot.


Count to one                the wrists are whole

Count to two                a long red dress

Count to three              all gone again

No wrist no dress.        Her shape.                   


The empty field.



I will diminish and go into the west.



I shimmer on horizons.




Keep an I on.               Take it off


Flashing back,              once,                twice.

Blood/vapor                                                      semaphore




Bisney Princesses in Love


The princesses are reading DH Lawrence & it’s getting hot.

What they did with the cornflowers. But Rore

you wrote that poem in college. Women in love/

are like fish. Imagine them circling and eyeless.

Orange, iridescent, drugged. Rore I remember it

Says Maribel. Rore I thought of it the first time.

I had this edition from the sixties and I held it to my chest

All the raw spring chanting what could have been your poem.

Rore the spring when I was all alone.


We’re in the Bisney vault where everything

is retrospect. Love is accomplished, documented,

filed in the vault, re-issued now and then

with special features. Never in this room.

We sprawl like tigers we are grown-up fish.

Our flesh is lacquered with our indolence.

We turn the pages. We tear down the walls

with good-teenager tiger claws. We tear the books,

the fashion sets. The bedsheets, sheets of stickers.

We make us stockings. Emerald green canary yellow brownish rose.


Clad in our stockings and our matching coats

we reenact the forests of our youth.

The red legs flayed by running: Blanche.

The moss-stained pair of birches where Rore

suckled an owlet. “I was way strung out.” 

Both ended up spread-eagled in the mulch

but not before the stag as if he were a boy

before she must exert some kind of power.

Waltzing with a boy made of animals.

Spoon-feeding tiny bearded boys. Maribel

gazing in the dark night at the beast,

her stockings bright with paraffin.
Maleness, like a young, good-humoured wolf.

His mother is an old unbroken wolf.


In the ruins of the Bisney vault

we lie again spreadeagled all of us.  

Foam at our mouths. Pink cake, champagne

forgotten. Goldfish swimming in our veins.

Above us, all the stockings limp and washed,

leaking the traces of the copyright,

grass stains, wax, rough gum

and glitter of the stickers, and newsprint

echoes of he was male so she and kind of power



 About the Writer
Split Lip Magazine

Caolan Madden is a PhD candidate in English literature at Rutgers University, where she teaches literature, creative writing, and composition and is working on a dissertation on figures of confession and performance in the work of nineteenth- and twentieth-century women poets. She has an MFA in creative writing from Johns Hopkins and a BA from Yale, where she played with The Tourettes, an all-girl band that is not any of the bands called The Tourettes that you might have already heard of. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Triple Canopy, Iron Horse Literary Review, Bone Bouquet, Anthropoid, The Great Gatsby Anthology (Silver Birch Press, 2015), Electric Gurlesque (Saturnalia, 2016), and the feminist literature and pop-culture blog WEIRD SISTER, where she is a contributing editor. Girl Talk Triptych, a collaborative chapbook she wrote with the poetry collective (G)IRL, is recently out from dancing girl press. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.