E. Kristin Anderson

Narrow and Fine

After Jenny Owen Youngs 

This is the terrible beauty of the body: Even the pain 

is extraordinary, my diagnostic mystery someone else’s romance. 

 

Memory floats in me. Still, the ride I’m on is bogus as a kiss. 

What I’ve seen is mostly from the shore, rooted in grass 

 

and gravel because I know how to be careful, how to be sweet—

but the boats are different here—so small. The bridges 

 

don’t crack open to threaten a swallowing. When blue 

scrapes at the horizon my bathroom has already become 

 

an eyelash graveyard. I don’t even wish anymore—just discard 

the damp cloth black with mascara. Five years from now 

 

I’ll still be climbing out of my sour skin, digging through 

the best of me for the pine splintering my pelvis. I tried to forget 

 

where I come from but like the sea it drags me under, catches

in me the loneliness of being childless. In autumn I drown

 

flies in soap and vinegar—so many little deaths in this house. 

I lose my books under the bed, discover a new bruise on my arm. 

 

If I swallow my tongue it’s just to try and taste the mirror again. 

Joints crack like porcelain. My waking dream holds one hand 

 

in the sea and this is how I am licked clean even as my shoulders 

point at the sky freckled and sore. I’m left to memorize dates: 

 

doctors appointments, the fall of the U.S.S.R., a dozen deadlines. 

I forget our conversations, my prescriptions, whether I need 

 

butter or cheese or detergent. Five years from now I will be only 

all the wrong memories, the waves coming hand over fist, 

 

the snake twisted in my spine, speechless at the pharmacy. 

And this thing I taste as abrasive as salt. I wonder if I spit it 

 

into the river, whether I can finally be clean of the dishes

I broke at seventeen, another tiny death to plant in the ground.

 

E. Kristin Anderson is a poet and glitter enthusiast living mostly at a Starbucks somewhere in Austin, Texas. A Connecticut College alumna with a B.A. in classical studies, Kristin’s work has appeared in many magazines including The Texas Review, The Pinch, Barrelhouse Online, TriQuarterly and FreezeRay Poetry. She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on '90s pop culture (Anomalous Press) and is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including Pray Pray Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night (Porkbelly Press), Fire in the Sky (Grey Book Press), 17 seventeen XVII (Grey Book Press), We’re Doing Witchcraft (Porkbelly Press) and Behind, All You’ve Got (Semiperfect Press). Kristin is a poetry reader at Cotton Xenomorph and an editorial assistant at Porkbelly Press. Once upon a time she worked the night shift at The New Yorker. Find her online at ekristinanderson.com and on Twitter at @ek_anderson.

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