her body as novel

  1. find her by reference number. or author’s last name. or just run your fingers down each shelf until a cover, color, texture feels familiar. do not open her yet, save the excitement for later. you are the “best for last” type. check her out.
  2. take her to your favorite cafe. lay her across your lap, spread her open – the sound paper touching itself like a note left on your nightstand. don’t talk back. don’t ruin it.
  3. read her parentheticals. search for words you’d find beneath your pillow or on a bottle of red wine. ignore the misplaced commas, smudged ink from hands wet with coffee or sweat.
  4. crease her corners. gently at first, hesitantly – you are scared to bend her in ways you cannot iron out. then, until she is thin to tearing. leave her folded to mark your precious parts. you have many favorites. explain: this is what it feels like to be well loved.
  5. crack her spine. split her down the center, seams unweaving, glue melting from forgotten umbrella. you shove her under you to keep her safe that way. when that fails, leave her beneath the desk lamp to dry. watch her warp with rain and heat.
  6. she is overdue. try to find someone who will take her off your hands: full of lines deeper than your palms, pages wavy with wet, underlined words like “full-bodied” and “unbound.”

nesting

i build him a nest beneath my diaphragm:
collected bits of gum wrapper, dark hairs,
unraveled thread, abandoned earring backs
for months, flooded my pockets with
the folded corners of strangers’ lives
and then swallowed them,
prayed they’d arrange themselves inside me.

when i told him i found a place he could sleep,
he was eager until discovery:
i’d have to swallow him, too.
i promised to take him with a cool glass of water,
swore i’d never dream of using my teeth.

(jealousy)

i imagine the south carolina girls,
their faces cracking like august earth.
veins of sweat roll from their hairlines,
flooding away: asphalt grit, foundation
from bottles and buildings, silky spider-web spit
hung in strings.
i want to grind their bodies
against a washboard, pinch their shoulders tight
with clothespins, ask them
how they feel about doing “women’s work.”