Back to Issue Twenty-One.

THE TEENAGE GIRL UNDERSTANDS

BY RACHEL MENNIES

 

Remember, there are other ways
that men can touch you
, my mother said.

I thought of the man who pushed
his thigh against mine
on the bus, said how are you still fifteen

but she meant
so they don’t get you pregnant.

When she told me about men,
my mother began her sentences
Understand. Remember.

We’ve all failed our mothers once.

On his mother’s couch, my mouth
filled with him, and I remembered

as a young child, my face slammed
against that first heavy wave:

how the brine filled my body
like a bag.

Understand that his cock
became the shape of my mouth
and claimed it. That night

he rocked my rigid neck
between his hands until
it locked. I ate nothing

but my work, spat him warm
into the sink.

If I told her I decided to marry
the first man who asked me

is this how you like to be touched,
my mother would understand.

 

 

KNEELING

BY RACHEL MENNIES

 

I trade each bite
between my mouth and throat,
and all my fat pleasure

rings dark with rediscovery.
Like the backyard tree
that sags with time—

what might I find
if I took a saw to it,
killed it to learn its health.

Bulimics know death
is a disease of increment.

Between my teeth, along
my gut, I see the spans
the acid’s left:

my pointer finger ringed
one shade dimmer
than my fist.

I make my body a map
of contempt:

grid in the ring of fat
at the belly button,

the thighs that grind
together. Soon the men
will mark me too—

the mirror assenting,
night-dark—
but in the morning,

the same creases
where my body bows.
The same plentiful

famine. My hungry throat
already claimed.

 

 

Rachel Mennies is the author of The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards, winner of the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry and finalist for a National Jewish Book Award, and the chapbook No Silence in the Fields. Recent poems of hers have appeared in Crazyhorse, Colorado Review, Black Warrior Review, Drunken Boat, Poet Lore, and elsewhere, and have been reprinted at Poetry Daily. Since 2015, Mennies serves as the series editor of the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry at Texas Tech University Press. She currently teaches writing at Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of AGNI’s editorial staff.

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