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.