The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: You Do Not Have To Be Good by Madeleine Barnes


The girl on the tram without a ticket
is forced off the car between stations.
The officer has different colored eyebrows.
He speaks harshly and spits at her shoes.

Seven hundred crowns, he says to her in English.
She shows him her wallet, five American dollars,
a medical card. A large yellow leaf is stuck
below her heel. When he twists her arm,

her shoes make no utterance. Two hundred
hours from now, four thousand miles overseas,
her mother will drop the phone. In three hundred hours,
the news will air. They will have found her clothes.

The tram doors open and he pulls her off.
The passengers stare in different directions
while the fields change color, full of testimonies.
Something about the way he struck her head

to wake her—did he have a badge? A pin drops.
The tram makes its way through the mountains.
She is walking at night on the path
beside the river. Cables shudder overhead,

making their secret violent connections,
her voice a wire so thin
it cannot be traced to a body.

This selection comes from the book, You Do Not Have To Be Good, available from Trio House Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Krista Cox.

 Madeleine Barnes is a poet, visual artist, Mellon Foundation Humanities Public Fellow, and English PhD student at The Graduate Center, CUNY. She serves as Poetry Editor at Cordella Magazine, a publication that showcases the work of women and non-binary writers and artists. Her debut poetry collection, You Do Not Have To Be Good, is forthcoming from Trio House Press in July 2020. She is the author of three chapbooks, most recently Women’s Work, forthcoming from Tolsun Books. She’s the recipient of two Academy of American Poets poetry prizes, the Princeton Poetry Prize, the Gertrude Gordon Journalism Prize, and the Three Rivers Review Poetry Prize. Visit her at

For money, Krista Cox is a paralegal at an environmental and insurance coverage firm. For joy, she’s an Associate Poetry Editor at Stirring: A Literary Collection and Executive Director of Lit Literary Collective, a nonprofit serving her local literary community. She serves on the board of the Feminist Humanist Alliance. Her poetry has appeared in Columbia JournalCrab Fat MagazineThe Humanist, and elsewhere. Her internet hangout is



One thought on “The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: You Do Not Have To Be Good by Madeleine Barnes

  1. This is deeply disturbing and heart breaking.When, where was this? I tried to find the story using clues from the poem and then ran into other unjust injuries and assaults on those ejected. The cool remove and needle sharp observations inject the inequity and horror. I cannot forget this.

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