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If You Can’t See My Mirrors I Can’t See You

 

 
 
 
my stretch marks run like the liquid mother

of pearl of god’s

tears I’m aggrandizing because I’m still trying

to cope with how often

 

I scarfed a whole styrofoam boat of nachos smothered

in sure-sweet ground

beef and gluey cheese in my high school

cafeteria before finding

 

my solace in a bathroom stall graffitied

   (no shit) with i  ♥ jesus

my lord and savior and then I bit

down on two fingers

 

before shoving them all the way in

   my throat like a quiver

of arrows I used to pretend I could swallow

   fire and that’s what

 

I did every time I let my boyfriend

call me muffin

top or worse dumb I began to give up

   parts of myself

 

to his names like barren stretches

of highways

to dead cops and lt. colonels why do we

   capitalize

 

I and not mine why do we

   capitalize I

and not you a friend’s ex-lover

   paid cash

 

money to have some lesser star unofficially

named after

her but how many stars out there are called

   Tracy the fifth

 

most popular name for girl babies

   in 1970 sometimes

I’m re-astonished to realize I wasn’t alive

   for every year

 

in history unborn until “Alone”

   by Heart

held down the no. 1 slot on the American

   charts sometimes

 

I come to a new place and feel I’ve been

   there before

the way I feel when a date I write after

my signature

 

is the birthday of someone I once knew

   but don’t

know anymore when I said a new place

   I meant

 

a new stance of my body the way

   my muscle and fat and

insecurities sit on my bones that day I’m told my backbone’s

   gradually bending

 

into the letter S I wonder what makes

someone cast

an old lover’s name into the distance

of space if it’s

 

a gesture of the unrequited or else

   a lightyear’s worth

of fuck-yous my body doesn’t stand

   for anything

 

it’s a rigorous honesty I sometimes wish it told me

white lies my

body it doesn’t stand for anything I want it to

not

 

forgiveness or acceptance not the same

   thing not even

the name I was given at birth the name

   I come to
 
 
 

Emilia Phillips is the author of two poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, Signaletics (2013) and Groundspeed (2016), and three chapbooks. Her poems and lyric essays appear widely in literary publications including Agni, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and elsewhere. She’s an assistant professor in the MFA Writing Program and the Department of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.