Jennifer K. Sweeney

(1973 / Tolland / United States)


In the scoliosis clinic, I waited in a room of skeletons
while men reshaped the architecture of my sister,
spongy discs stacked in S-curves
like haunted seahorses, undulant when I shifted
a protuberance side to side in my thumb
and forefinger and the reticulated whip
rippled to the tailbone.
From the cold gleam of chrome rooms,
girls who were apprenticing to be women
emerged with fallen eyes, torsos fitted
in white plastic bodices like armor.
Cage around cage around echo chamber of heart,
tapered fingers at the hips,
sharp rise of iliac points
directing their sway toward revolving doors.
I stared at the skeletons, at the girls,
at the scooped moon of the pelvis into which
the thighbones fasten like sanded doorknobs.

At 22, I accepted a job teaching junior high.
Not far enough away from the hollow years
of my own shifting body, the seventh and eighth-grade girls,
slight and doe-sprung, drifted down wide industrial
hallways, bones jutting sideways from their skin.
One girl chose my second-story classroom
from where we'd see her fall past the window,
gathered below for the after-school meeting.
She pulled back my chair, tucked her backpack
neatly under my metal desk,
opened the window and let go.
Below, a flash of brown hair, slim form like a sail,
then an anchor, heavy in the grass.
Her silhouette shuddered as we ran.
Don't move! we shouted, but she was already
standing up, walking away into dusk,
not a bone out of place, walking
like a girl who's thrown her body
to the wolves and comes back whole.

Submitted: Monday, August 25, 2014

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