She’s let herself go, they’re saying,

as if her self were a balloon

loosed over the street, its string fraying,

or like milk in a hot room

turned to curds. As has her flesh—

and true, her back teeth are missing,

her lipstick’s less than fresh

on her worn mouth (& not from kissing),

her roots have grown out, & her scent’s

the musk of her own skin. This kind

of self-forgetfulness, of a self spent,

in a girl would be a sign

of self-harming rage. It’s another thing

in a woman her age who has only one fight,

it’s come down to that: to find

a self to hold on to, & use it use it use it.

in The Southern Poetry Review 52:1 Summer 2014


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