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I believe in the width of men’s backs.
There is a certain kind of sweat there,
in the valley made by their mountainous
shoulder blades. It is dark and
smells like sex.

Men say my back smells like cheap
soap and cheaper wine; they say
I have hips that could both sink
a ship and sail it. “You taste
like rain,” I have moaned to men
in the thick darkness before dawn.
They taught me that there is
a kind of love that hurts and I
have read their weathered
backs like palms
to find it.


What It Means to Be Flesh

after Renée Ashley’s “The Revisionist’s Dream (I)”

I let them have my body because they stood
in line. Patience is rewarded with a slab
cut from the bites of fat on my back. He
told me to lick his face. He told me to hover.

Everything I touch disappoints me. My senses
tingle with disgust. It feels like an electric fence. It
feels like running my fingers on gritty concrete.
The way to see bodies is as if they lined a museum.
I lean close and see the fractured ridges. It smells
oily. I don’t get the point. It ruins the piece to touch.

I don’t think the ticket holders are satisfied
either, though they close their eyes and wish
with intent snarled on their lips. They believe
I hid my happiness trick and dig to find it.

I wonder if they see me as dinner
or a garden. I feel like fast food. I don’t
think I want to be a vine: green,
curling out over the ground, greedy.
My hair falls like that, but it’s dead
and straight and I always tie it back.

They like to see my face. I’m an animated statue
following perfunctory commands. I create as
much as I can — sometimes my dreams are delis
where I stack my various meats in new ways.

My body is a treasure chest, a mine.
My body is a treasure. A chest. It’s mine.
My body is not me. My treasure isn’t a chest.
My body is a dune. It’s dug and buries.
My body is up for the taking. It’s limited.
My body, what are you, my body, my body,
    my body — oh.


Sara Chamberlin is a very recent graduate from Florida State University with an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing. She’s not looking forward to moving back in with her parents, but has big plans for Manhattan and future poetry; they include attending culinary school and pursuing publication.