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.
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.
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
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.
and my favorite,
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.
I didn’t believe gems would heal me,
but as I traced them
I wanted someone who believed they could.
to adorn me with their love.
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 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.