Which is to say that like a good theoretical objectified body, my identity was created not by me but by the various desires and beliefs of those around me. 
– Daniel Borzutzky
 
My body is a small cave door                     
it’s a slick whale 	a jubilant
sea of tall grass that sways
& makes its way across countries          
& lovers             I love	        love-making
I don’t remember a time when             
I wasn’t interested in touch
I have these breasts
& some 	         would want to come     
on hands 		      & knees to worship them               
call me flower   	      or         	       desert
Maybe I was only supposed to be
stone or a baby eel                    
long & layered		          a nun?
I don’t remember ever saying  
              yes 		      just	 no
I am searching   for my own body    
not the one I was told is so                    
I want to be always  open                
	     like a canyon
Maybe I was only supposed to be           
tree or temple              
In some circles I am
just an open gate          
a sinful  bauble  

Once someone said you are 	       this      
& I  never questioned it

I am searching		           my own body   
for        	        God      

or someone like her—

Copyright © 2018 by Yesenia Montilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

To understand what it would be like
          to remove my clothes
as painters do in portraits of themselves

          I imagine I’m the woman
who knows her body
          no longer belongs to the young artist

who painted herself before she had children,
          before her topography was changed
by forces erosive as water and wind,

          and yet she goes on painting it,
the girdle of her earth that is now an etched terrain
          crossed with silver rivulets.

And hills, I want to say to her.
          Valleys. Then hummocks,
hot springs, hoodoo. What is art about

          if not depression? Uplift? Depression
again?
At which she straightens
          the flesh of her shoulders and neck

to face me before I disappear
          into landscape,
my favorite state of undress.

Copyright © 2018 Allison Funk. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Summer 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Hell,

we just climbed. Reached the lip
and fell back, slipped

and started up again––
climbed to be climbing, sang

to be singing. It's just what we do.
No one bothered to analyze our blues

until everybody involved
was strung out or dead; to solve

everything that was happening
while it was happening

would have taken some serious opium.
Seriously: All wisdom

is afterthought, a sort of helpless relief.
So don't go thinking none of this grief

belongs to you: Even if
you don't know how it

feels to fall, you can get my drift;
and I, who live it

daily, have heard
that perfect word

enough to know just when
to use it––as in:

Oh hell. Hell, no.
No ––

this is hell.

Copyright © 2013 by Rita Dove. Originally published in Poet Lore. Used with the permission of the poet.

1

I tore from a limb fruit that had lost its green.
My hands were warmed by the heat of an apple
Fire red and humming.
I bit sweet power to the core.
How can I say what it was like?
The taste! The taste undid my eyes
And led me far from the gardens planted for a child
To wildernesses deeper than any master’s call.

2

Now these cool hands guide what they once caressed;
Lips forget what they have kissed.
My eyes now pool their light
Better the summit to see.

3

I would do it all over again:
Be the harbor and set the sail,
Loose the breeze and harness the gale,
Cherish the harvest of what I have been.
Better the summit to scale.
Better the summit to be.

From Five Poems (Rainmaker Editions, 2002) by Toni Morrison with silhouettes by Kara Walker. Used with permission from The Believer Magazine

This is like a life. This is lifelike.
I climb inside a mistake
and remake myself in the shape
of a better mistake—
a nice pair of glasses
without any lenses,
shoes that don’t quite fit,
a chest that always hurts.
There is a checklist of things
you need to do to be a person.
I don’t want to be a person
but there isn’t a choice,
so I work my way down and
kiss the feet.
I work my way up and lick
the knee.
I give you my skull
to do with whatever you please.
You grow flowers from my head
and trim them too short.
I paint my nails nice and pretty
and who cares. Who gives a shit.
I’m trying not to give a shit
but it doesn’t fit well on me.
I wear my clothes. I wear my body.
I walk out in the grass and turn red
at the sight of everything.

Copyright © 2015 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Used with the permission of the author.