She Smokes

by Michelle Moomau

she smokes to show how independent she is

that pink-polka dot dress
that hangs down past your knees
where the knobby bone lines itself white in the surface of your skin
cherry red
i think of it and i worry for you, my dear

the neighbors say
you wear too much hairspray
don’t you care what they’ll pass between them
like borrowed sugar,
with you looking so small?

through all four kitchen walls
insect thin;
they can hear your wrist
your throat
your pulse, blooming, so close past lemon-yellow wallpaper
while we sit together and feel them tapping dirges to the ceiling

i guess it’s all right
it’s fine
as long as your mom and dad aren’t listening

that pink plaid pattern dress
that sags and bunches around the gap
where your breasts aren’t and won’t ever be
i think of it and i worry for you, my dear,
because: flat-chested girl, is what your dad says
and sighs,
when will you grow up?
and i bite my tongue back not to question him
but the truth is,
when will they let you?

they all have

large hands
long brown fingers
strong arms and loud voices

and you have oranges
orange oranges
tangerines sun-bright
and in your kitchen, all four walls watching, we tore each one open
and held them, bleeding, in our palms
and you pressed your thumb
into the flesh,
your thumb and fingers
and tongue and said
the sugar’s only sweet when it isn’t yours

and i worry for you, my dear

so think fast –
they all ask:
do you love him?

does it matter when he can hold you still so completely?

he’ll say you’re
whoring around
and cherry red

we didn’t beat her enough, your dad says
and in his arms, his wife, your mother
she cries,
you’re right
our daughter’s a slut, and this pain is killing us
this pain is the burden a whore’s parents must bear
but you only ever ripened to please them
you only ever grew under their care

and the neighbors can smell
you fucking through the walls

and with your forearms slick with pulp, you tell me
you can still feel

every part of him
running down your
paper thighs;
and cherry red
and bone white
as hard as rain

as rust

as sand

while one sweet room down
your mother screams,
rots with black flies;
your father lies,
mouth open,
on the floor