When did my brother realize he couldn’t
pray the pulled worms back together?
Couldn’t will the salt shaker back full,
the slugs unseasoned. Couldn’t undrown
the pill bugs, unflush the newts, unbury
the robins, unbreak necks, little feet,
green crows, lumps of dirt and burnt goldfish.
There are pains that can’t be sorried away.
I’ll never forget the name of the kid
who crashed my tree frog funeral, crushed
the hand glued cross with his Doc Martens.
The centipede boy who left hand shadows
in the creeks of all of our bodies when
we thought we were the only one
under the swell of his limbs. The bulbs
I have eaten instead of buried to hide
them from hands that grab and take, take,
take things apart to prove they can always
be put back together after breaking—
Stop telling yourself that one cut worm
will turn into two, that you multiplied
a body and made of it a phoenix.
Dried into sidewalk ampersands and tildes,
stop saying they’ll come back stronger.
the first boy who touched me without my wanting
said it was an accident when I turned in my electric rage
his hands upward like holding a phantom bird
he didn’t mean to crush in his anger so new and dripping
is this what it means to be a man a toe ever-pressing
outward until someone points out the red line wet paint
you’ve been dragging so you can unstick this crimson shame
from your feet take a quick bow back in the spotlight
this boy when I saw him scared smiling adrenaline
I did a javelin spin threw the closest book thud to chest
what words can protect a body how many chapters
create a hardened shell of retreat on the street all that touching
that train touchinggrocery store touchingpasta endcap
touchingsticky boyfriend couch touchingwhat-no-hug?
touchingall the words I don’t use because who knows
how big each daily danger is I feel so vulnerable in sunlight
in evening when I am a snail and the world is a mountain
I shy from words like assault because it’s just another wednesday
the hands stop being hands start being white noise
the applause underpinning a sitcom you tune out tell me
what letters in what order can make a body newly untouched
Chrissy Martin is a PhD candidate at Oklahoma State University and has an MFA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago. She is the Poetry Editor for Arcturus and an editorial assistant for Cimarron Review. Her work has appeared in Harpur Palate, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Crab Creek Review, and Carve Magazine. Find her at chrissymartinpoetry.com.