a lover who asks how you acquired a bruise
I take my clothes off with strangers and delight
in pores quenched by new sweat, and the singular paradox
of knowing a body's connotation without definition.
see her and I as an example of a hope that I will be used up.
I imagine the jaw, her face unhinges and scoops me hollow. I swim
above my body, watch as she worships my emptying frame.
her belly laps against my sheets, swelling with me, so I could go
about my days sarcophagused: dead and hollow and Black
and glorified. or I imagine the hope is a plea to haul her up by the wingspan
and suckle every plume, and cellulite crater from her legs
and arms knuckling with my chest, ballooning me with her words
that aren't words, wagging from tongue to toe. I could be bloated
with lust and pride like MLK's member, deflating over
the years in another version of history. what happens is a higher
and lesser cruelty. her hands help to shuck tights. they are tossed
to the floor; the hands press down just below the threshold of an ache
into a bruise on my shin. how did you get this? this leg? this body?
this flesh and skin colliding with something that isn't her. I answer
the same way I do with people who know less and more of me.
I can never remember the object or moment of impact.
his fingers scalding the seam of a linen thing my mother sewed me/
her thinking over the drone of a singer sewing machine of a tall man/ a sweet boy
with the face of Sidney Poitier/ a few years my senior/ opening a car door/
my smooth leg stepping/ sidewalk/ fabric falling above the knee
and swinging forward as he pulls me up/ his hand there on my waist not too tight/
guiding/ and this would continue for sometime/ sometimes in that dress until the day
our love was so strong he had to pull the garment over my shoulders and leave his prints
on everything the linen had covered/ she stitched a plea in a garment/
linen is a fine cloth/ Egyptians used it as a currency and wrapped their dead in its flaxen fibers/
my skin turned brittle in linen under hands my mother didn't imagine/ she said women
so critical of men usually have some shame-pain inside them/ as if you need to touch
a needle to know it will puncture/ girls I know are up late fondling lovers/
I am up smoking with a wine stained tongue afraid if I close my eyes I will sleep
for one thousand years/ mummy dress breathing in my closet/ fear stains breeding
in the armpits/ my plea/ to be the fingers that slide the dress over my shoulders/ to feel
the woman I am currently loving from afar/ scratch her name into my back and rub cocoa butter
into my seams/ my plea/ compliments on the movement and the beauty and the tailoring
and look where it got me before/ look what beauty can be for me/ if I light a match over linen/
just some pattern fit to my form really/ I won't feel stove-top fingernails in every fiber/
every onlooker/ and my mother/ the smooth leg of her dream will still emerge hairless/
gleaming/ plea becoming fantasy/ my ecstatic form moving too quickly for a passing man
with a vulgar tongue to see a pretty painted mouth/ swinging
forward/ sidewalk/ fabric falling above the knee/ legs spreading on and on and on/
pretty dimpled thighs wrapping around the world like a crown
Xandria Phillips grew up in rural Ohio, and received her B.A. at Oberlin College in 2014. There, she studied Creative Writing and Africana Studies. Xandria is a Black, queer, interdisciplinary poet who often writes from a radical consciousness about race, the body, and femme desire. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Virginia Tech.