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 metallic. 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 being? 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 bone.
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.