Paige Welsh

Belly of Stones

When I was a child,

            I thought I was a peach,

 

that I had a hard pit at my center,

sharp where the shells’ lips met,

but also knotted.

Burl-like.

 

I never touched myself because I was afraid

            if my fingertips so much as grazed the stone,

 

it’d come unmoored.

 

I’d bleed out over the sheets of my twin bed.

My parents would find me.

 

Hands in my pants.

Dead.

 

The funeral would be mortifying for all of us.

 

Instead, I’d open a children’s book of anatomy,

peer at the sterile slices of penises, vaginas, and rectums

for the shudder.

 

I imagined a doctor running a woman’s body

through the bread slicing machine at the grocery store

to prove a point.

You were compartments

within compartments

the whole time.

But she was already long gone.

No pit in sight.

Only soft shallow caves.

Not even worth the spelunking.

 

In the pages towards the back, I dwelled on the alternative medicines.

Herbs, acupuncture,

 

and my favorite,

the jewels.

 

A tiara of emeralds fanned over a woman’s abdomen.

The tip of a sapphire nestled in her navel,

 

placed so lovingly with clinician’s tweezers,

dry as a Thoth’s beak.

 

The colder armor.

 

Even then

I didn’t believe gems would heal me,

but as I traced them

 

I wanted someone who believed they could.

 

A fool

 

to adorn me with their love.

Salamanders 

 

My best friend

could not be my best friend at school. 

That came after, 

when we shed our uniforms to be boys,  

bandaging our breasts, 

sagging our jeans, 

up-doing our hair  

under beanies to prowl the aisles of 7-11  

 

where the women shrank 

and the cashiers  

looked us in the eye. 

 

For those hours we were sealed  

 

vessels, as immune to rape 

as a vase with a closed top. 

I don’t know why we stopped. 

 

I think it was the salamanders,  

  

when we’d go down to the creek 

scoop up their soft bodies 

with the dirt beneath them, 

like potted plants, careful 

 

to never pollute their mucus membranes. 

 

We felt so intact,

we let the rain run down our necks,

gill slits open.

 

Now she lives in New York 

and I in Orange County. 

If our planes passed each other 

somewhere over Kansas,  

I think we’d wave,

two shadows flickering 

from the windows of our airtight cans.

Paige Welsh.jpg

 

 

Paige Welsh is a dual English MA and MFA candidate at Chapman University where she also teaches first year writing and composition. Her reviews have appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal and The LA Review of Books. She has work forthcoming in Narrative and Gigantic Sequins. Before pursing her writing career, she studied Marine Ecology at UC Santa Cruz. When she’s not working, she likes to garden with her partner, Chris, and their cat, Biscuits.