Volume 27, Number 1


in order to stretch your fear of men
and white vans momma tells you

they put twigs inside your private parts
says they hurt simply for the sake of it.

brain knotted, you sit on the old fuchsia carpet
calmed by the feel of the strands

between your fingers. you try to grasp the pleasure
in the act—because surely there must be

pleasure for these shapeless men
or else why bother with the ugliness

of hurt and snatching up girls in the first place.
this the closest you ever come to talking sex

with momma, and it’s too soon then
to couple the trauma with the word

or even the secrets of your own body.
and besides you’re still a long ways off

from the shame of girls sold down
to new orleans for comfort—how inevitable though

that it finds you, the horror, a phantom
at your neck, pressing, the unfamiliar weight

nestled between your breast. and yet, regardless
of how a kidnapped girl got ushered

into that world you learn to breathe again,
a shallow breath, and sometimes even forget.

—Brionne Janae