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The girl was born with one

watchful eye

that could keep the village safe.

It was her sole purpose.

The eye witnessed a mother

sliding under

ice, her children

three small stumps

frozen on the river’s edge,

the father slumped in shadows,

a rope around his neck.

What good was all that seeing

when she had no way

to tell it? Look at her eye now

bitter, furious flower

infested by bees & flies.

Look at it

looking away.


For the fast I purchased three quarts

of juice. I’d be thin as a ruse.

A week of nothing

but Orange/Apple/Prune.

My system would be

clean. O gleaming discipline.

The scanter I became,

the greedier I got

for less.


Allotment: one square

of light & a half-crust & grapeskin

for vitamins

Is that enough to leave a trail, to get back?

sufficient to keep me

walking to the room

where the scale waited

I could live on a bead—

shiny or dull—

and not collapse

Let the empty swings sway

Let streetlights dim

Let the wind and mousy-haired rain and even the sun eat away at me


That large rectangular restaurant window,

steam in the glass, wide tables,

grandmother & grandfather

from distant mesas and buttes sitting with me

eating as though we’d just seen a ballet.

It was cold enough to be Christmas.

The spruce & scarlet globes hanging

& everything shimmering. My grandmother looking

directly at me. She’s thin. My grandfather glancing up.

Strewn between us: handfuls of shatter & tinsel & tin

& meat & things I would never eat—


It was there they gutted earth

to lay two black tracks that couldn’t touch.

There, the train. There, my seat by the window

where I sat on a real square of light—

tissue-sized. I felt my bones clear

as an X-ray, their starry knobs, the hard

weft and slope. With the first jolt

of the car, they thrummed.

Half my weight dropped, loose

flesh lost, I was getting close to the marrow,

claiming my landscape—

the spectacular hill-bone of my wrist rising

as I turned in my ticket, my knee bulging

larger than my thigh.

The train lurched, its one yellow eye

fixed north where my mother waited

and would, for the first time, see me as I was.


Not eating was a sign

of grief

in our house: after he & he & he left,

my mother stunned

thin as a rake, draped

in her wedding veil, bruised eye

staring out,

her sisters dusting every corner,

refrigerator stark

& sponged.

In my bed, I froze,

coiled with snakes, wet with piss. Mouth

stuffed with a fist

lest someone hear—


I was a gaunt circus horse practicing my getaway—

running for hours in circles

in the training gym

around wires & nets & shovels for shit—.

Slashing at my forelegs,

one of those circus barb-hooks.

I rounded the next bend, windblown mane, ankles grinding

to gristlebone.


It’s a quick trick:

Sink into the box—

the mustachioed man

(jacket-tails flicked back, slick hair)

saws through you slowly…

then it’s rising time. Shake off the bone-flecks—you’re

halved, a lean miracle!


I slept in a house of hexagons,

the boxes we didn’t unpack complicated

with twine & string & flaps—

It was a house of emergency exits,

no door. You had to be really thin

to make it out.


I fashioned a small snow-girl with one eye.

Caped in an icy sheen, snow-father leaned

off to the side, two brothers heaped like ghosts

unable to protect themselves from the sun,

snow-mother losing her figure

after the blizzard, trickling underground.

All winter their mouths filled

and dissolved. Sometimes as they melted,

they sunk under a headdress of starlings

and sparrows, twigs loosening from their sides,

eyes disappearing, small whitish-gray sockets

replacing them. I stared in vain

as though in my looking I could

save what was made to be



Once I so loved

the tiny pink-tulled ballerina

in the music box,

I cut her off at the feet.

Poor stiff girl, perpetually

en pointe and lamed, toppling every time I tried

to twirl her

in my palm

while the stage whirled

without her…the tinkly music slowing to a drawl and slur….


I thought I could make it out by tunneling

through dirt, pushing

my star-snout through, leaving

a wake of spider-bits,


& the horrified faces of my family

standing at the mouth

of the hole.

They couldn’t fit within

what I’d made, & I had no space

in there to turn back

to them.

I tunneled away

from houses, people,

flowers, birds…the hole

narrowing, my hands & body

falling into a rhythm

of my own



I circled, circled the campus—Where’s

the carcass, the feast?—greedy for the fat

double digits of the scale I stood upon….

I leaned hard into a book…words—my breath,

my light—blurring

in a dark wash of ink.

Farewell, meadow & stoplight

Farewell, starfruit

A collarbone in every poem I wrote.

Wedged between grocery shelves & bins

of loose bulk, I couldn’t choose a morsel.

At nineteen, reverent

& ashamed, I emptied a box of laxatives nightly—then drank

a syrup that would heave my guts up

through the throat.

Who is that figure? What is

her name?


The people were so hungry they ate

dark plate after plate

of what I fed them—

without complaint—even

asking for more….Too heavy, too heavy they hissed,

when I picked up a fork.


I lowered the blinds, sat

in the lack—

diminished, slack, grotesque—

just a body in the dark relieved

of its reaching, free

of its brain, its heart.

All mine I whispered

to the swelling empire

of emptiness—


The hand-that-was-mine

took a reflex-

hammer to the hard knot of knee—.

No kick.

Pliers quietly undid

the wires of Appetite.

A donkey’s head in a cage

brayed & brayed. A test

of endurance not

to drop everything & save it.

The world was fixed as a crumb

on the tongue.

The stethoscope a pendulum


steal a scalpel, pare more

flesh. Drape

another sweater over

your summer bones….


Is that a boy or a girl

the child asked her mother while looking at me

I became absolutely perfectly silver in that


I turned sideways I



What was I

that I chose not to float

that I lay thick with mollusks

my mouth filling

with algae I neither swallowed

nor spat

that I chose not to eat

like an animal

sickened on the salt of upheaval

I believed

each ounce I weighed

had an equivalent


or was I human—

gagging what was


I made a god—


I offered her bones

& she ate nothing

but fire fire

& whatever wind it was

that failed in that moment

to lift me

from the dark

strangle of weed

and push an oar

toward me


Remember the days of no

calendar no

future—relying on

the thin quavery finger

of the scale to settle

on a low stolid number

maybe 80

or 70—

concave enough to hold the real

jewel! To be glimmering pure and null….

In a blur of dream,

I imagined 60—the needle

trembling leftwardly, lower—a near invisible stinger


clean, sharp—decided

in its angle—one last

shudder to the left—


How did you make it back?

asks the stone lion I pressed my body against

before blacking out—

asks the forking wisteria of my mother’s forest

where I retched repeatedly after eating—

asks the sealed book I lay against

whose blood, scorching inside

with a life I shrank from, was my blood—

How did you make it back? echoes the last glass

of milk I didn’t drink.


At the hospital’s check-in desk, they took my name. My mother

trembled, the nurse handing me

the yellow wrist ID for the children’s ward.

you don’t have to

do this you knowmy mother cried you don’t have to

go inside we can

go home what do you want to do

Looking away from her, I turned

down the shining corridor on my pin-thin legs,

past the medics in green, the silver IV machines, tubes

& sacs swaying—

I carried my bag into the room.


Thank you for the cherries I wrote

my father, my throat still too thick

to swallow sweet bits, the girl

in the hospital bed beside me scowling

at my gift. The next day the whole basket

vanished. The girl brooded, skin

marked up where she had tried to cut

herself open. They pulled me back

for what? She looked my way. Nobody

gives a shit about me. Nobody

visited her side those months, while mine surged

with people & flowers & chocolate

I couldn’t eat—have it, have at it I said

but she took only one, watching me warily,

calling me Skinny as I folded myself up on the sill looking out

at brick & alleyway, dumpster & anemic

yellow trees.

On the day she tried to kill me,

her hands scarred rough & tight around

my neck, hissing threats, I hoarsely

issued reasons for her to stop. I spoke with the calm

of one who knows herself. But you don’t even want

to live she cried, dropping her hands,

& I took my first full breath.


The women are trooping over hills, through

fields & rivers. They splinter as they stride, narrow

between trees & sparkling. Their eyes harder

than glass, than bone. Women trooping, brushing

against railings & mirrors, you would think their elbows

could cut through iron & glass, but iron & glass are

smarting their calves & thighs & necks & lips.

Even the rain is on parade—delicately tinkling

& cutting the women ever-so-lightly as they troop & thin

en masse over bits of glass & diamonds & caulk, bearing

gleaming compacts & glass jars of chalk. A glimmering

glass set—. How brightly the women thin in the gloss—

poised, swallowed by dumb reflective

surfaces with a sheen that stuns—.

(O Shining Epidemic!)

When the sun

drops low & the women lie safely

abed, their skin covered by glittering gauze,

their hard eyes focus solely

on themselves as things that need

thinning, weapons that will harm.


In deep green spring—

skeletal, draped

in thick shawls, full sleeves,

in my emaciation—

kneeling in sweet grass,

I was sealed, almost holy, cloistered

from men, from women.

I had made myself


Lovers sailed past,

arm-in-arm, ample with flowers, I smelled the largeness

of their skin, felt their hands, their lips…

a bird inside me

widened its beak—

from Pretty TripwireFind more by Alessandra Lynch at the library

Copyright © 2021 Alessandra Lynch
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Alessandra Lynch Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.