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first used as a common

name for houseplants

derived from the Greek

with clenched fist and Latin

to fight pierce or prick

associated with petals women rawness

and deflowering which happened

to me when I was nine hospitalized

and needed some kind of test

the young woman called Rosaline

who Romeo loved before he met Juliet

the word’s root is shared with poignant

puncture punch and repugnant

as a child the thing I most wanted

was a canopy over my bed

a dreamy veiled curtain

to pull shut and hide in but

instead ribbons covered the beams

the finest among specimens

as in Romeo’s friend Mercutio who said

nay I am the very pinck of curtesie

in verb form to stab or to make holes in

one night I unstitched

the seams of my dress and I spread

out the pieces of sparkly thin fabric

until my body’s shape seemed

to go away

by 1680 the word was replacing

incarnate as the name for a shade

between pale rosy flesh or blush

and blood or crimson

technically pink isn’t

a color but an illusion

we perceive by mixing the two

light spectrum extremes

I used to love getting wasted at parties

stumbling across the street

and hoping someone would find me

to see pink elephants

means to hallucinate drunkenly

I used to tell manicurists

that I’d fallen rather than admitting

I’d bitten through the skin

on my hands which I did

most days without noticing

when Romeo pleads o teach me

how I should forget to think

and Mercutio replies

prick love for pricking

even now when I drink

I still wake up to find my old cuts

bled all over the sheets


MAG GABBERT holds a PhD in creative writing from Texas Tech University and an MFA from The University of California at Riverside. Her essays and poems have been published in 32 Poems, Stirring, The Rumpus, Thrush, Hobart, Phoebe, Birmingham Poetry Review, and many other journals. Mag teaches creative writing at Southern Methodist University and for Writing Workshops Dallas; she serves as the interviews editor for Underblong Journal. For more information, please visit


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