Alison Townsend

(Pennsburg, Pennsylvania / United States)

Persephone at the Mall


Sleepwalking.
That's what you think
when you see the girl walking
alone at West Towne Mall; she's
sleepwalking, trying on the allure
of the body like the platform sandals
and mini-skirts you wore at her age
that have suddenly come back; she's
sleepwalking, her body a new
continent she is exploring,
her breasts taut under the black
burnt-out velvet shirt,
her legs endless columns of light
spilling from short-shorts
purchased at the Gap; she's
sleepwalking, entranced
with the spell
of the body, how it drifts
on the surface
of the bustling crowd,
intricate as
the lily she seems
dressed to resemble,
the book of myths
open between her legs,
though she does not
know the story in the book; she
sleepwalks, not knowing
because she does not
see herself, does not notice
how men's glances
strip her of being, this girl
who slinks and provokes
without knowing
the danger, only
that men look and look; she
sleepwalks, and you know
that she likes it, as you did
when you hemmed your
good-girl skirt into a micro-mini
and ran to the bus-stop,
all legs yourself, nothing
touching your skin but air,
your long hair falling
around you like a veil,
while your stepmother
screamed, Tramp! and You'll
be sorry at your back;
she sleepwalks, parting
the crowds of people
before her as if this
is the first day of the world,
the mall a meadow where bees hum,
where every nameless flower
anoints her with pollen; she
sleepwalks, lost so far inside
her body you ask, was I ever
that young? She sleepwalks;
and it is not envy you feel
but fear-so many eyes
watching from between blades
of new grass-she sleepwalks;
and despite what you see,
scrying in the soot-blackened
glass of the mirror before you,
staring through the window
into you she has become,
she sleepwalks;
and there is nothing
not one thing
you can do or say
to wake her.

Submitted: Friday, August 08, 2014

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