Three nudes crudely drawn. One crouching,
back turned, right hand feeding the turtle
of the painting’s title; another sitting, as if in a chair,
head bowed, eyes downcast; and a central
figure, standing, chewing her hands. My hands
want to take hers—wet with spit, nicked red
and bitten—into mine. It’s her ugliness I can’t
resist. Or her misery. My gaze keeps returning
to her haunted face: How she is consumed
with herself; how she consumes herself.
It’s the kind of dream, every dream, when all
the characters are you. There’s something
I’ve been gnawing: some fleshy part of myself.
It smells like dirt puddled with rain. It boasts
cartilage and fingers. It drifts to my mouth
like a cigarette, a habit. My father is an addict.
He crouches inside me, back turned—it’s been
years since I’ve seen the scars on his cheeks.
He feeds the part of me armored with a carapace.
As a girl, I savored beer he sipped
from a sweaty bottle. I drank what he offered—
not caring if it reminded me of piss—
the glass rim warm with breath. I tasted
what would sour. When I was an infant,
my father softened grapes with his teeth. I ate
from his fingers. Still, though they fed me,
I do not want to hold them. The seated figure tucks
her hands between her thighs. I want to kiss
her knuckles. What I could have been, what I could
become, and what I am squat—naked
and shivering—in the air-conditioned gallery.
All the green and blue mixed to make my flesh.
The guard signals for my attention: Move back,
Miss, behind the line, you’re too close to the painting.