Poetry  February 2013 | issue 446

Unloose

by Heather Sellers

HEATHER SELLERS will start teaching creative writing at the University of South Florida this fall. She is the author of You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, a memoir about family and face blindness. She’s at work on a new memoir, a collection of poems set in Florida, and a novel for younger readers.

www.heathersellers.com

Fifth grade, summer of the green one-piece.
I was waiting out in front of the ymca, downtown
Orlando, and there was a man on a motorcycle
under the portico where Mom picked me up.
I was in the green suit like skin, barefoot
on the hot concrete. Dancing. For the first time
I could see how a man could have been a possible boy.
That was the day I didn’t step away, go back inside.
He had water-blue eyes, a long beard, no shirt,
and jeans I knew to be “bell-bottoms,” but they had
no bells. His body was muscle smooth,
like a horse. Those pants had seams running
down the center of the legs. Useless seams.
I could feel my finger wanting to . . .
Finger! I put it in my mouth. I put a second finger
in, like a baby. He held his helmet in his arm,
like a football. “Hi,” I said. But I meant
Can I ride? I meant around the parking lot. I meant
sit on the bike for one minute. I meant I don’t have
a real mother
. (Where was my mother?)
I felt wings grow out of my back from the straps
of the green suit. I stepped toward his motorcycle,
stepped out of my story. I only wanted to prove that
I wasn’t afraid, wasn’t like her. He said, “No, it’s hot!”
Too late. I’d already pressed my knee against the silver pipe.
I heard the fizzle, the spit, felt
the bright pain and the shame. On my kneecap
that afternoon remains: Black heart of scar.
The beginning of the girl in two pieces.

 

 

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