Making Maxine's Baby

Making Maxine's Baby

by Caroline Hagood


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Poetry. "Smart, empathetic poems... MAKING MAXINE'S BABY is a gorgeous book, eminently readable, full of surprises."—Elisabeth Frost

"Tracking her flight from the hell of feeling, Caroline Hagood's metaphors unfold with a desperado's inventiveness. Reeling with the book's unexpected turns, I'm reminded of Dickinson's razor-sharp observations of her own psyche and of Plath's acerbic wit. For all the diversity of its escape routes, MAKING MAXINE'S BABY reads like a single utterance. It wills us to train our attention not on the traumatic violation at the poems' source, but on the loneliness, wild creativity, and valor of survival."—Joan Larkin

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781934909461
Publisher: Hanging Loose Press
Publication date: 04/01/2015
Pages: 69
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Caroline Hagood is a teaching fellow at Fordham University and the author of a previous collection, Lunatic Speaks. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.

Read an Excerpt

Making Maxine's Baby

By Caroline Hagood

Hanging Loose Press

Copyright © 2015 Caroline Hagood
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-934909-46-1


    Maxine Misunderstood

    Maxine doesn't only love men's bodies. She wants to grasp the logic
    of their internal organs. She craves blueprints, circuit diagrams,

    sewing patterns. First time she saw Frankenstein she wasn't afraid.
    She wanted to know how the mad doctor did it,

    where to get dead people parts, which graves were best
    for culling, whether a whole family of ladybugs

    could live inside those zombie bellies.
    When the high school guidance counselor

    asked the inevitable career question, she told her
    all she really cared about was weaving back and forth

    between the inner and outer life of people, what you could see,
    what you couldn't, writing down what she found there,

    taking ideas apart and putting them back together
    to make them more ecstatic.

    So you want to be a mechanic?
    In a way
, she said, and left it at that.

    Every winter solstice she watches surgery shows, goes to butcher shops,
    rethinks people as composites, disparate shards blazed together by
        sheer will.

    She has only to say unravel and her body will unwind before her,
    unfurl like a curled hair come undone after the ravage.

    So much about negative space can be learned
    from snow angels, how she imprints slush with the shape

    of where she was, then where she wasn't. To dissolve the distinction
    between inside and outside take a wrecking ball to a building.

    Where do things go after they're unmade: failed marriages,
    the minds of the dead, old cells after replication?

    Is there a holding place for disappeared things where people can reclaim
    everything from nail clippings to abandoned children?

    Because she can't stand the thought of her love vanishing,
    She keeps all her old boyfriends in a mason jar by the porch swing.

    How Mermaids Save the Drowning


    Maxine dreams of standup comics
    sliding dead down shower walls,
    making red capes on white tiles,
    as she looks on, envious and alive.

    When she was six, he started to confetti
    her skin, and night after night he found other ways
    of making verbs of nouns, saying
    there's a new sheriff in town.

    The sheep did nothing, just looked on mirror-eyed
    as he dismantled the carefully swept floors
    of her inner dollhouse, caused the wind chimes to tremble,
    upset the cacti garden, broke with tenderness each light bulb,
    then stood aside, cold and separate, to watch her crumble

    with the kind of desire she'd seen only in the man
    who robbed her melon garden, left tatters
    of rind here and there, didn't even care
    about the squirrels looking on terrified.


    Maybe it wouldn't have happened
    if Maxine could pull back people's coverings,
    see what they really kept underneath —

    children's lunchboxes, glow worms,
    crocodile tears, and something sequined
    that smells of woman.

    After he touched it, she wanted to remove her flesh,
    just bulldoze it and build a mall there.

    She imagines herself stuck in an iron maiden,
    like Johnny Depp's mother in Sleepy Hollow.
    Hurt changes memory. It all comes out later in slashes,
    leaving her an ellipsis in her own sentence.
    Grief is a nasty lay and a poor companion.


    One day Maxine's brain started eating itself,
    became both prisoner and prison,
    made crisscrossed gashes on its own skull walls,
    but smiled widely when people came for a tour,
    always so damn pleasing.

    She and body are no longer speaking.
    They blame each other for what happened.
    She started splitting off the first time
    the sheriff touched her child skin.

    She fears if she ever sees what she really is,
    She'll Medusa herself. Real Maxine

    is a tiny mouse that lives in her bloodstream,
    who longs to paddle boats over water bodies,
    feel the sear of ice cream lips, fall in love
    with architecture, but remains trapped inside
    with the heartbreak of dissipated protein.


    Maxine tries to live in the time before it happened —
    when she would bury her face in her cat's belly
    and how it always smelled
    a little like fish, a little like milk,

    spend all summer seeking to engineer
    the ineffable as a child in Coney Island,
    building a sandcastle for the homeless man

    who lived beneath the Wonder Wheel,
    where he could sleep safe from pain
    behind a fence of Nathan's hotdogs.

    Now, light breaks her. There's a cracked doll
    sitting by her bed watching her sleep, she just knows it.
    She fixes herself, harsh letters strung together.
    Like other sad fables, she'll just be rewritten.

    Someday she hopes to feel revived, like hell is inside
    but she's flushed it out with water. She thinks
    she's the devil's daughter.


    When Maxine tries to understand, she's like a surgeon
    taking shining sticks to her own form,
    admiring how people are strung together,
    shrewd bone experiments that actually endure.

    She performed the dissection on herself,
    but it just left her secretive and paralyzed,
    spending Saturday nights licking her own wounds,

    and when her tongue stuck to something frozen,
    she didn't even try to save it, just tore it at the root
    and left it there. She'd never seen a person

    turned inside out, but didn't want to miss it.
    Medical students do it all the time,
    stay in the room as the casing is pealed back,

    revealing the coral within. All she believes in
    anymore are her own stories,
    because if she can do nothing else,
    she can witness, she can record.


    Beneath everything is lust
    for the slurp and suck
    of changing molecules,
    extreme makeover shows,

    the lure of the beyond. It's why
    Maxine hitchhiked America the summer
    after freshman year, but now she lives
    in a subway tunnel, simultaneously seen
    and unseen, an undetectable horse leaving
    mysterious tracks in the mud.

    She used to be on the honor roll,
    but now she does Dante in different voices,
    had to go down, ask the dead for answers.

    Before they bludgeoned them
    or left them to rot under a stack of TV dinners,
    writers used to talk to muses,
    but now she makes do shouting at manholes
    and playing her harmonica
    for the A train people.


    At night Maxine prays — God, I don't know if you're out there,
    but sometimes I hear you screaming in the tracks,
    feel your heat lawnmowering through my veins,

    flashes of something emphatic etched in zebra stripes
    trying to break out of me
. Without her home,
    she crouches inside her flesh tent, crackling,

    rushing the next holy moment, a small scar
    collector hurrying onward. Without her skin,
    she is a blood puppet. Nerves gaunt and jangling,

    it's a jungle she welcomes,
    this open air cinema, our lady
    of the surgical theater. Without her cells,
    she is unrestricted,

    rising up like ether,
    incapable of being held in palms,
    undeniably free.


    It's like a joke told by an uncle with bad breath,
    this living as a watch awaiting
    her own unwinding. Maxine can be undone

    so easily, fragmented like language,
    torn asunder. It's all hazy, like that moment
    when she first wakes up

    and can't be sure of anything — whose soft,
    bruised limbs are these, whose morning saliva?
    An instant stuck between sleep and the day
    that follows, interstitial thing,

    sandwich meat, moon sliver.
    This is when she is most herself,
    when she hovers on the edge
    of her many raving possibilities,

    the taint of the vulnerable always in her,
    the breath she must take
    before facing anyone.


    While walking the Brooklyn Bridge today,
    she choked on something sacred. It was in
    that old lady's whiteness of hair, the depth
    of her smile lines, even when she wasn't smiling.

    Maxine thought everything just might be okay
    when her octopus mind extended its tentacles.
    Her understanding of a conversation is that people
    put stuff in her ears and it comes out as a poem.
    She's overcome by the words written under her eyelids,

    inexplicable ant farms, unsayable things she says anyway
    because it saves her from strangling
    on her own fervor, this ability

    to look at things longer than other people,
    hear the voices of inanimate objects, read revolution
    on plants like Nat Turner did, put letters on a page

    that can crawl right off, touch readers in places
    they shouldn't, breathe into their mouths,
    because that's how mermaids save the drowning.

    Those Things They Call Horses

    Eliot could hear the mermaids, but for Maxine
    it's discarded appliances, morning after morning, asking
    what she's written. They look like buck-toothed porpoises. Loneliness
    is like gray hairs, leave it alone for long enough and it will make children.
    The thing about staying up late loaded on coffee
    is that the brain turns into another kind of beast entirely.
    All borders between self and other melt like movie candy
    and the creature it spurs around the ring of the mind
    is so much more unruly than those things they call horses.
    This is a mode that creates only in negative space,
    digging deep inside and eliminating anything cowardly,
    revealing her inner Ultima Thule, a land of milk and spices.
    She wanted to write something she'd like to read, so she took some fountain pens
    and planted them in a garden. When they sprouted,
    they had iambic leaves and a hypothalamus.

    Best Done in Leather

    remembering is best done in leather
    on the back of a motorcycle
    Maxine can still see him in a bowler hat winking

    he knew she couldn't get enough
    her memories are tangled chords
    someday she will make a rope out of them

    and capture something wonderful
    stop being a live wire
    a maker of trouble a hidden fox

    come and find her or maybe
    she is better left unfound
    with her mind of running cattle

    and backward time travel
    she's starting to suspect
    she wasn't made for these days

    that live so far from the edge
    teach her all that you have seen
    caresser of fish women

    only listener to the sirens' song to survive
    tell her about the giants because she knows they exist
    and she's sick as hell of being lied to

    Adventures in Maxine


    Maxine is always wondering what color
    she is inside. Red probably, or is it blue
    before oxygen hits like a bee swarm,
    viciousness expertly wielded,
    compendium of ferocity?

    Yes, red probably — not lipstick
    but uncle's blood clot, not raspberry
    but hooker's nipple, gore on murder
    weapon, color of his face when she said

    she didn't love him, manhandled
    woman parts, commie pinkos,
    poppies that brought sleep to Dorothy.


    Dear Brain, a bad student of science,
    Maxine has always wondered what you look like.

    Probably some spongy stew, but that's okay.
    she likes you anyway. She thinks there are synapses

    involved. What's your configuration?
    Not just in cases of dissection,

    your marvelous thinking mass
    spread out like sparrow wings on a table,

    but your hunger and camouflage.
    Do you contain wax reproductions

    of starlets or something more real, like big boiling
    sobs? What kind of movies do you watch?

    Skin flicks, stag films, blue movies,
    or something far worse like musicals?

    Either way, she promises to take good care of you,
    to feed your plants and water your children.


    Cut Maxine open and you'll find letters,
    sulking, deconstructed sentences

    that build whole factories
    when she's not looking.

    Anatomize her brain, like in one
    of her slasher movies, and it's connected

    not by neurons but by commas, semicolons,
    parentheses. She stretches thoughts out in coils of ascending spiral

    staircases (people can have very strong
    feelings about punctuation; Kurt

    Vonnegut was firmly against
    the semicolon). The problem is

    the bull of her idea always stays locked
    in her thought prison. She can never

    get close enough, just keeps waving
    her cape in front of it eternally.

    There are too many horns
    and too much theoretical distance.


    Maxine's tree house mind, with its many roots
    and dendrites, connections, however tenuous,

    a thing you could climb. Now that she's cracked
    it open, she likes to journey in it,

    like Mrs. Frizzle in her magic school bus,
    an Alice unleashed on Thunderland.

    It always smells like bread and citrus,
    no matter the weather. If it were a garden

    in a British novel,
    it would tell you everything

    about its owner: be full of roses
    that looked like weapons.


Excerpted from Making Maxine's Baby by Caroline Hagood. Copyright © 2015 Caroline Hagood. Excerpted by permission of Hanging Loose Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Maxine Misunderstood, 9,
How Mermaids Save the Drowning, 11,
Those Things They Call Horses, 20,
Best Done in Leather, 21,
Adventures in Maxine, 22,
Horror Theory, 26,
Radioactive Candy Apple, 34,
Star Wars Aficionados, 40,
An MFA in Vapor, 44,
Maxine's Romance, 48,
Making Maxine's Baby, 56,

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