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ISSUE:  Summer 2021


       after Romare Bearden’s Patchwork Quilt (1969)

My back is turned from him again, 
but this time I’m not hunched 
over the quilt—his rough thumbs 
gripping my waist—I’m standing 
in the middle of a room constructed 
with pencil, adhesive, and paper. 
One foot in the basin, I will scrub 
his cigarette hands and yellow eyes 
off my skin. I will clean my sex 
and start again. Another will come
and I’ll forget the coat hung gently 
on the hook—different than the way 
he took me. He shook like a startled 
fish caught in a great blue heron’s beak. 
Yes, a woman of my kind 
has seen the sea. The first time, I gasped 
at its glistening mouth. 
Endlessly the waves replaced themselves.
I launder my nakedness like a uniform
with water from the pitcher. 
Soon another will arrive whom I will 
wash away. There is a man who dares 
to face me, he considers 
every angle. He built my form 
with precise lines and foraged scraps 
of brown. From the harsh shape
my elbow makes, the builder knows 
this is a portrait of work 
not pleasure. I love how softly 
he touches me, though all I want 
is to be left, to spend a morning in bed 
alone with the images of dream.



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