Elisa Karbin

Pretty Girls Don’t Sweat

if they did, I’d have seen the sylph-slim Ashleys
and Jamies wilting down the cul-de-sac, glossy
flanks shining under a nylon scrim of shorts rolled

twice at the waist, or at least tracked the subtle swell
of muscle in the lazy arc of their willowed arms.
A map’s relief beneath taut tans bared in the shameless

locker-room parade, I surveyed their bodies—
those lithe and wild-born riddles, guileless graces
to my round-faced stumbling.        All I wanted

was to see their viscera’s sprawling legend, beauty’s
mysterious anatomy laid out like a new skin to wear.
Unreadable codices and the secret pleasure of the body

blooming from bald naïveté in the moment I turned
toward the mirror; In the instant looked away.



Recall’s heat comes in surges— Sulfurous,
                        a murmuration of starlings

stirring in my empty chest. This red-bone
                        holler swarms and threads

through capillary and vein, is pumped out
                        by the engine of my surly

heart.        Stanch it.        Stop the brittle
                        black-winged tip and pour

making my gut a raucous lake. Seductive in its
                        coil and pull, its call to drown.

        Outside the raw-rubbed skin of trauma’s
                        cut—this clean psychic gash—

birds are shaking off their feathered moorings
                        setting out to wing across my

body’s shore. Each wingshadow rakes a tiding
                        wave, a small rebellion. Darkly                       

these starlings trail across the skein of me as if
                        a rupture, another blade dragging. 

Elisa Karbin’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, West Branch, Notre Dame Review and Blackbird, amongst others, and have been nominated for multiple Pushcart prizes. She is a PhD candidate in poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she also teaches. Visit her online at www.elisakarbin.com.

JD Thornton