Erin Lynn Marsh

after Lucille Clifton

Listen to the audio version.

I dream most nights of malformed hip
bones — her Pelvis twisted to
crippled perfection. Walking leans me into
mine, leaving me with little
limps. Oh to wake with the hips
of a woman, the wide hips
of a mother. Pain brings me back
to a left hip, metal-enslaved.

I flex flaming muscle to go.
It hurts to do.
Oh transform this hip
into something strong, into the hips
of my sister. Oh transform them
so strong men will love them and
spin me like a top.

* * *

You could easily pick me out of a police line-up

Listen to the audio version.

but you won't, will you?

To identify me as the woman who digs
through the trash set out in the alley

would mean I am the same woman
brought home from the bar last night.

It means at some point you overlooked
my left leg—dented and scarred;

the lopsided hips onto which was stitched
a map of the rivers and tributaries

of another planet; the fat gathered
at my stomach, awaiting further instructions.

No one saw me limping from the car
to your front door—my bulky body lurching

left with each step. You wouldn't have needed
to explain my presence to anyone—but I fled

your bed at dawn. What we had did not sate me.
I woke the neighbors as I foraged for love

in your garbage can, frantically digging, tipping
it over—like a raccoon scurrying away as back

porch lights switched on, making do

with whatever bits I managed to snatch.

* * *

In my planned-for life, there is a man

Listen to the audio version.

who would pick up the spider,
place it in the grass outside our sliding-glass
door. The spider is frightening. The man
allows it to crawl onto his thick finger, it's flimsy
legs unsure of the whorled ground
in which it finds itself.

In this actual bathroom, where the yellow shower curtain
is meant to imitate natural light, I use the tip of my silver-blue
cane to kill the small black spider scaling the wall. I smash
it with molded rubber. The mangled body falls to the floor.

I could have let the spider live.

In this cramped room with artificial light, I am a single
woman—my disfigured hips singling me out. Crushing
the spider feels inevitable. Flushing it's broken body—
a reminder ugly must not stay.


Erin Lynn Marsh is a poet living in Bemidji, MN. She has her MFA through Lesley University's low-residency MFA program in Boston, MA.