Betsy Housten



The first thing I understand about my body is it's wrong.
My bladder's jacked, urine in retrograde, flowing back
toward my kidneys. I'm five. I get turned around easily too,
panic in restrooms and parks: fear of being left behind,

for no reason anyone can tell. Born jaundiced, yellow skin
like raw chicken at the Laneco. Mom runs ice baths
to calm the hallucinations I can't remember. What I know
is the surgeon lets me gurney into the operating room

with my Cabbage Patch Kid – impossibly blonde, never
not smiling – lets me think she's there the whole time,
watching as he carves the skin below my belly to rearrange
the deepest parts of me. In a few years the scar will fade

to just a subtle inch or two. Barely noticeable in a bikini!
This the doctor tells me several times afterward, winking
over his desk at my young toxic self. That's the day
it begins for me: girl as weapon, glistening, sharpened.


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