by Alexandra Carr-Malcolm

She wore it and bore it,
like an ill-fitting coat,
a name duly bestowed,
from his mistress’s throat.

Obsessed by the curse,
not her familial name,
an unfortunate victim,
of his clandestine game.

Dad told her a story,
again and again,
she should have been Phillip,
not a girl, shy, and plain.

This was cold comfort,
to be given this news,
as he’d also died young,
singing the sugar blues.

The Carpenter’s coat –
she wore that one too,
a mismatched fit,
she shrank from view.

She pondered a name,
ambiguous, and strong,
a spiritual death,
yearning to belong.
As she grew older and wiser,
and tired of this fate,
tipping the scales,
the deed sealed her fate.

The mistress was smug,
as her mother boohooed,
to use her new name,
they still staunchly refused.

Karen’s long gone now,
victim, weak, and lame,
too scared of life,
wearing that coat of blame.

It still cuts to the quick,
to be labelled as Karen,
a hollow reminder,
a moniker barren.

My choice name is Alex,
my phoenix rebirth,
from mouse to lion,
a feeling of worth.

I am sorry mother,
we were all taken in,
by his maleficent blarney,
and their original sin.

© Alexandra Carr-Malcolm

PHOTOGRAPH: “Karen in her ill-fitting coat.”

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My birth name was Karen. I had a very difficult and dramatic childhood. My father told me that he’d always yearned for a son and not a daughter; he informed me that I was named after his mistress’s daughter, as he felt Karen was such a beautiful name. I always hated the name Karen; it felt like it didn’t fit me. As a teenager, I developed an eating disorder and became obsessed that I was destined to the same fate as Karen Carpenter. In the 1980s, I changed my name by deed poll to Alexandra, it gave me a new identity and a new outlook on life.


Alexandra Carr-Malcolm was born and raised in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. She now lives in Yorkshire, and works as a freelance British Sign Language Interpreter within the Yorkshire region. Alex has been featured in five collaborative anthologies by Dagda Publishing, and has also featured in The Wait. Her first anthology Tipping Sheep (the right way) was released in 2013. In 2015 her poem, “Homecoming” won second place in a poetry competition, Overcoming Obstacles, held by Dagda Publishing. Currently, Alex is working on her second anthology to be released later this year. Her poems can be found on her blog