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Idiosyncrasies of the Body

Iím the kind of woman
who never skips a meal,
who always takes the end seat
closest to the door.
I raise rashes on my skin,
scratching imaginary itches.
Iíve got one right now
behind my fleshy arm.

I never appear naked in front of anyone.
When I bathe, I always lock
the door, even though the house
is empty. In school I used to imagine
the classroom door bursting open in the middle
of biology, a madman running in, pointing his gun
directly at me, and saying,
Take off your clothes, all of them,
and when I looked horrified, heíd add,
Or Iíll kill you.
I turned to my teacher, a woman
who could not save me, and I prayed
for death to come quickly.

I have bizarre dreams.
Last night my father returned
from being dead. Once more he entered
the bedroom at the lake house, slipped
through the door like Zeus,
and pulled off my towel.
Heíd seen hundreds of naked women, he said,
my father who for years
every time I passed him opened
my blouseóhis right
to see how things were growing,
and I was a cold fish, just like my mother.

I envy other women,
especially those who go into a sauna
in a strange place and, in front of strangers,
strip down naked, so easy in their bodies.
And now Iím the teacher
when the door bursts open and my father walks in,
points his bony finger at me,
and in his thunderous voice, says, Strip!
Or Iíll kill the children, all of them.
I watch my father, like the ancient Titan,
devour the children.

I am unclean in my body.
The summer my mother left
my father forbid me to lock the bathroom door.
His house. His roof. He could enter
any door he wanted. June, July, August,
I did not bathe, not once.
Each day I went down to the lake
and walked into the water.

In fashion I am most comfortable
in turtlenecks. I keep my blouses buttoned high.
I have never walked naked
in front of a man, not my husband
or my lovers, and do not know
how it feels to be a goddess
in front of a man,
how to bring him to his knees.

-Diane Lockward (Rattle)