Before Miss America became Miss America
she was Jennifer, seventeen and burning
up her report card behind the house
she grew up in. Miss America was
fourteen when her father died, fifteen
when she chipped a baby tooth
against the mouth of her mother’s bottle
of Pinot Grigio. Miss America had
big blue eyes that she wore red-rimmed
and puffy. Miss America cried,
Miss America got stoned. She had
blue eyeshadow and frayed jeans
and we all knew she was a nice girl,
really, but she existed on the edge,
a mystery with chipped acrylics and
blonde hair, blowing smoke
out the window of a borrowed car.
We didn’t think we’d see her on TV,
her smile straight and clean
as hands clasped in prayer.
A long white dress encasing her body,
dazzling us all in the spotlight,
the glow from TV screens
in living room darkness
so bright, it hurt.