The Harpies of La Plaza Mall, Circa 2000

Raucous squawking interspersed with laughter.
Trilling gossip songs. Medusa’s face
on the handbags tucked beneath our arms.
Sirens on our paper coffee cups.
We roamed the mall in flocks, swishing locks
of bleach-blonde hair like wings. Late summer.
Nothing but an afternoon to kill
on this savannah. Bodies linked together
in a labyrinth of hairspray, denim
and skin. We felt invincible, like nothing,
no one, even time, could bring us down.
All lank—legs and necks and bone and lipstick,
our fingernails long and painted red.
Power in numbers, we created chaos
everywhere we went. We picked the bones
of clothing racks. Our caws and shrieks
quickly drove away the competition.
Our heavy scent filled every room we entered:
coconut, hormones, bubble gum, and sun.
Mythical—when the boys would stop and stare.
dangerous—when the men would stop and stare,
and how our eyes could turn them into stone
when all of us at once glared back and cackled.

Alone, a harpy’s but a single bird:
a target for the bullet of the eyeball,
a target for the hunter and his dog.
Together: aerie, murder, pantheon.

We owned this mall. No shame. We gulped our lattes,
giggling and giggling and giggling—
as if these afternoons could last forever.

Katherine Hoerth is the author of five poetry collections, including the forthcoming Flare Stacks in Full Bloom (Texas Review Press, 2022). She is the recipient of the 2021 Poetry of the Plains Prize from North Dakota State University Press and the 2015 Helen C. Smith Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters for the best book of poetry in Texas. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines including Literary Imagination (Oxford University Press), Valparaiso Review, and Southwestern American Literature. She is an assistant professor at Lamar University and editor of Lamar University Literary Press. 

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