Defense

Subtract the wet of my mouth from my mouth
and it is winter. Winter dry, then festering
like a lesion. I dip myself in rosewater to be a real girl.
I bunch up my underwear to stain like a real girl. I chew sour fruit
for too long so my cheeks are sore like a real girl. Like a real girl,
I study my skin before I hide it. I say yes, or
I say nothing at all. You have to understand–
I wanted to be kind. I wanted someone to open me up
like a window. I open the window. In come the flies
with their soft bodies, the softest touch and
a fly is softer still under my sudden palm, is still. What was I to do
with my skin startled from stillness? My skin startled
into the moment’s maybe, me startled into touch?
What could be kinder than the softest thing? When I was born
I was soft. My mother cracked her hips open to let me in.
When I was born I did not breathe.
When I began to breathe I began to scream.
The last sound before my first breath was the wind of a slapping hand.

 
 

Shakthi Shrima’s work has appeared in Muzzle and Berkeley Poetry Review, amongst others. She reads and edits for Winter Tangerine, and is currently an undergraduate at Princeton University.