Each summer, the Vampire Lady is visited by a few Lost Girls: Girl Scouts in their fascist uniforms; Camp Fire Girls with their made-up Indian names (“Wa-ne-bot-ee”); Little Stars and Brownies, as cute as cookies; and even the occasional blue-skinned loner, not associated with any organizational privileges. All scuff their shoes and rattle her bell loose until she lets them in, then offers up red lemonade they won’t drink and black jellybeans they surreptitiously spit into her ferns. The girls say they want to sell the Vampire Lady boxes of polyunsaturated fats or cans of BPA peanuts or subscriptions to ridiculous magazines, but they seem to her to be asking for wisdom, which she gives, with no salt or sugar-coating: Leave the Styrofoam and yarn alone; you’ll never make that octopus. Don’t knit: no one wants it. Never stencil leaves on anything. For sex: bleachers, bathrooms, and movie theaters will do the trick. For love: look into your mirror. For direction: look to the strange lady on the bus or hunched over a bar-top. She’ll tell you the news.
Cathleen Calbert’s writing has appeared in many publications, including The New Republic, The New York Times, and The Paris Review. She has published three books poems: Lessons in Space, Bad Judgment, and Sleeping with a Famous Poet. Her fourth, The Afflicted Girls, is forthcoming from Little Red Tree. She has been awarded The Nation Discovery Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Mary Tucker Thorp Award from Rhode Island College.