DIGESTIVE:  on  Friday nights  you  &   I  went  to   dinner  in the
small   hick  town   where   we   lived.  We’d   meet  your  friends
there    &   the  evening   would   tip,    licked   by  liquor, & you’d
escape to   the  bar   down  the  hall;  around  the   corner.  You’d
go  knowing I  wasn’t old  enough  to  follow. A  green-eyed  doe
trained to  sit  &  obey.  My  intestines   knotted—grew  intimate
with   the    tension  of  Friday   nights. I  crushed  tums between
teeth  to   balance   the  jitters.  The  taste  on   my  tongue   was

CIRCULATORY:   irregular     palpitations      beat    through     a
stethoscope,  the  doctor’s  question  lingered  in  her  furrowed
brow:     “what     stresses      exist      in      your    daily     life?”

INTEGUMENTARY: I  pick   at   my   cuticles   until   they  bleed.
Old  habit  rising  from  raised  voices.  And  whiskey, of course.
I pick  to  prepare as I  consume  uncertainty. I chew on  broken
nails  to  prevent  me  from   speaking.  The  hair  on   my  arms
prick  &  sway;   crescent-shaped    depressions   in  my   palms
made the shape of my body. 

MUSCULAR:          shoulders          slump           &        muscles
contract—tendons   tense    &       flex;   reactive.  My  knuckles
knew     the   memory  of   curling   into  a  pillow;  the  balance
needed to demonstrate pleasure vs. fear.

REPRODUCTIVE:  Friday   night    rewards—sour    whiskey  &
coke on my  throat, I  compiled  grocery  lists in my head while
you   were   inside   me,  eager,  knuckles    deep,   sightseeing
without a map of my body. Headlights  passed by the window
& set  the  room  on  fire. You  didn’t  mind   the  chafing  like I
did, but you also didn’t care.

ENDOCRINE:  My  menstrual  blood  set  you  off,  knowing  it
bewitched   me;  replenished  the   power  to   my   senses—a
natural repellant to your good ol’ country boy.

I’d let  it  run  wild  between thick  thighs, savor in the space it
created apart from you—

But  I  lived  &  breathed  by  the  ten  commandments  of you
because  you  told me  to. If  you’d  raised  your hand  high, to
strike  or  condemn,  ruling  menstruation  a sin  I would  have
plugged  it  up  &  prayed  god  to  take  the  power  from  my
undeserving ovaries.

SKELETAL:  cartilage  now  pops  when  I   get  down  on  my
knees.  I   was  just   crumpled   bones  in   a   moonlit   room.

Before  I went  to sleep  I’d  whisper: am  I even still a human

RESPIRATORY:  I  held  my  breath  for  five  years—followed
by  a  six month  exhale that  hurricaned through  my blood &
baptized my body.

NERVOUS:  I’ve   hollowed  out   my  adrenal  glands   with  a
dirty   spoon—wrung  em  &  hung  em  out to  dry—but  that
splash of spirits on your tongue or the tongues of others calls
for   shots   of   endorphins,  tranquilizing    senses   while  an
overworked    homeostasis   clocks   in  &  out  and  in  &  out,
working nights & weekends.

LYMPHATIC:  flushing   you    was   a   five  year   endeavor—
cayenne  pepper and  liquid diets,  night  sweats  &  marathon
retching, eliminated alcohol, ate  seaweed  &  dandelion  root,
vinyasa’d  under the moon,  exfoliated dead skin,  leaving  you
in  supermarkets   &   alleyways,  submerged   myself  in  sex,
cored  myself  like  an  apple  &  built  myself back up bone by

Nicole McCarthy

Nicole McCarthy

Nicole McCarthy is an experimental writer who earned her MFA from the University of Washington Bothell. Her work has appeared in The Shallow Ends, Crab Fat Magazine, Ghost Proposal, FLAPPERHOUSE, PUBLICPOOL, Tinderbox Poetry, Civil Coping Mechanism's A Shadow Map Anthology, and forthcoming in Glass Poetry & the 2018 Best American Experimental Writing Anthology.
Nicole McCarthy

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