Whenever he stands up, I can
feel the shock of water
roaring to a stop on the coastline.
Tomorrow, I'm going to ask him why he talks
as if a podium follows him everywhere.
By now he has looked at me,
taken in all the blotchy details & unwound
my orange-peel skin, while I refuse
to mention his sandpaper fingers,
imprecise and deafening.
Next week, he'll pick me up
at the library & I'll read to him
from an encyclopedia & hear
his hands drown out the entries.
He left a note at my door.
In a few minutes, rain droplets
will pounce on his words before I can.
Encounters thereafter are incursions,
encroachments, my skin, his territory.
I want to write the casualty report.
I want to know the numbers. He calls
his brother afterward in the language
I'm learning & unzips
all the body-bags, lets limbs
roll out and loll at his feet.
When he glares me against the wall
of the bathroom, the apologies
lurch from my throat into the toilet.
He declares that there are seasons
like bruises and scrapes, like late snowfall,
that beauty doesn’t live in my pupils
but in the puffy skin around them,
that the stains are washable.
In sixteen months, I will stop flinching at tiled floors.
Elisabeth Siegel is a senior in California. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in 3Elements Review, Rain, Party & Disaster Society, Textploit, VerbalEyze, and Glass Kite Anthology, and has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She is the editor-in-chief of her school's print newspaper, as well as the literary magazine, HELM.