Catherine Carson

WHY I BROUGHT THE WASHCLOTH TO MY LIPS AND SWALLOWED ALL THE WATER


When I turned eleven,
the doctor said, Let’s take a peek
and lowered my briefs to my thighs.
His fingers pressed into soft flesh
and I wondered how it would feel
to be touched by someone I loved.
Would I open my eyes?
The doctor’s dark stubble
would be sharp on my cheek.
White paper collapsed beneath me.
White squares divided the white ceiling,
marked by black spots. I could punch a hole
through one of those squares. I could
crush it in my fist. It would feel like a dry sponge,
and when I opened my hand, it would be a dented ball,
the shape of this urgency.
My mom raised an eyebrow,
focused on the doctor’s working hand.
I locked onto her face, but she didn’t look back.
In the car, she warned,
Don’t ever let a man force himself on top of you.
As if opening knees to soft, heavy bellies
weren’t already on my mind.
Before the next exam, I wrapped a
rough, white washcloth around my finger.
This time, I would be clean.
Scalding water needling my shoulders,
I washed myself once and then
washed myself again, ready to
offer up my body, shiny and pink,
confident then in the language of touch. 


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