Sitting Nude

Jan Beatty
The torso facing east, the head nearly west,
as if she couldn't take in the sight of her
own skin and its failings, its parts spilling
onto other parts. She thought:
Nothing for once.
Too tired for fantasy.
If a body can be seen as itself and loved,
it's a wonderful thing. If the thing-ness
of the body is all, we're doomed and
broke apart: I'm offering you my breasts,
inches below the fuselage of my heart,
for whatever a short life can become.

More by Jan Beatty

Report from the Skinhouse

I went looking for the body.

The apple, tree, the river.
Gliding voice, curve of arm,
pearly blue uterus.

Muscled calf, the neptune green
eye, blood with the same
taste as mine.

Why do I write my report this way?
An adopted child needs to find a face.

What does a real mother's body look like?
River, chalkline, bloody cave?

I am replica of nothing.

birthmother, conjurer, boneshaker, witch,
let me smell your skin just once,
I'll give you your bloody daughter.

I'll Write the Girl

The thing I'll never write is the green leaf
with its rubbery-hard veins, I'll never
write the structure exposed, instead

I'll write the girl picking it up, green leaf,
her pudgy hand & her wanting it, that's it,
because she knows the sky is full

of stumbling ghosts, & she's back in the cold
room, back on the dark floor, & along
so much sky, what does one person do?

She says, bring it to me & devours,
hungry girl, breaks it open, tastes
the day's first plasma of leaf, first blood

of green on her city street, she takes it
to her like morning's first kill, &
owns it, stem to point,

& knows her life will always
be this biting open one thing
to leave another, that the only

way she'll get anything is
with this tiny hammer
in her animal brain

saying: mine,
& again,
& now.

The Kindness

                       Banff, Alberta

The mother elk and 2 babies are sniffing
the metal handle of the bear-proof trash bin.
I remember the instructions for city people:
3 football fields of space between you &
the elk if their babies are with them.

I’m backing up slowly,
watching the calves run into each other
as they bend to eat grass/look up
at the mother at the same time.
The caramel color of their coat,
the sloping line of their small snouts &
I want to hold that beauty,
steal it for me,
but I’m only on football field # 2 & walking
into the woods past the lodge pole pines.
Their fragility, their awkward bumping
opens me to a long ago time—
            a hand on the door,
            I was walking in
to the psych hospital in Pittsburgh,
feeling broken and stripped down—
            a hand on the door
            from around my body
& I looked up to see the body
of a man, who said:
Let me get that for you
            a hand on the door
            & the bottom of me
            dropped/
I couldn’t breathe for the kindness.
I couldn’t say how deep that went
for me.
I had been backing up, awkward/
I had been blind to my own beauty.