I took my body out of the hand-me-down bin. It sagged empty as a winter coat on its hanger. Believe it or not, once it was chased by a town-car of clowns—The drunken pimpled sons of sons of sons of the Ku Klux Klan. I was a Jew, a Jew. My body had kinky hair and a crooked nose. Not like the girls with bowling-pin white teeth and doily-tanned toes. The blood of a Jew on my virgin Kmartunderwear. They shadowed me down aisles, into a junkyard purgatory of broken toys. God’s drunk at 2 am when the fluorescent lights hone in on the Denny’s bathroom. Interrogating every truth and blemish. I did it in the graffiti-riddled stall, staring down a cracked toilet. My body’s tongue forced on his dark pulse. He squeezed my head so hard, it burned a hole in time. I counted the headstones of my people, like tiny boats in an inlet. One by one, they saved me. The cuts and wounds filled not with blood, but umpteen years of Sweet’N Low and sadness. I’m easy, tell me what I want to hear. ”Your face is damn ugly.” The next day, “Kike” and “Slut” Magic Markered on my locker— a swastika like a jungle gym for the dead. My name scrawled in every defiled bathroom stall—Our calls hollow in the wax of God’s ear.
Cynthia Atkins is the author of Psyche’s Weathers and In The Event of Full Disclosure, and the forthcoming collection, Still-Life With God. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Apogee, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Denver Quarterly, Diode, Florida Review, Flock Lit, Green Mountains Review, Los Angeles Review, North American Review, Rust + Moth, SWWIM Every Day, Tampa Review, andVerse Daily, among others. She lives in Rockbridge County, VA with her family. More info at www.cynthiaatkins.com or @catkinspoet.