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When They Look at Me They See Death

Rebecca Cross



I’m always sold in the same way. The poster promises a boudoir scene
where I stand, a queen, in a richly furnished apartment, cascade
of mahogany hair, one hand outstretched. A brandy and a warm fire.

What my visitors find is a bare stage where I stand alone in my ache.
When the light breaks on my body they cry. They ask, Where
is there room for a heart? 
They ask, Why does God save what he can’t feed?

Someone turns the spotlight to my face. I show them how I eat air,
show how my hips compare to a page from a diary. They are amazed
that I have the strength to raise my arm to beckon or wave farewell.

A volunteer from the audience lets me test my weight in his lap.
See how empty I am, I say, except for the cry in my throat? I’ve given up my name
for this show, given most of my pay to the promoter. In my trailer,

I’ve given my body to those who have asked. My lovers don’t want me
to touch them. They want to see light on my shins, my ankles.
They sit away from me, watch me take off my clothes.

They put their hands on my ribs and sigh. They ask me to lie
on my bed as still as I can. They place flowers around me, lay
their bodies on mine. I keep my eyes closed, try to keep still,

to quell the shiver of bliss in my bones, but I can’t. When I feel
the light screaming inside me, I bite their ears and whisper, I want.
Tonight, a man sits on my bed while I undress. I comb

my hair for him, play the guitar. He touches my chest. My bones
cut into the shadows. Darkness falls on my wrists. I say to him,
Hold me like breath. I say, Give me my name, it is all I can carry.

The Living Skeleton

Rebecca Cross works as an editor in Vermont. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Woven Tale Press, Breath and Shadow, and Always Crashing.

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