SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

Skin Deep

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 Kmart underwear.
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.

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