Amber Edmondson


My mother
wouldn't let me cut it,
so I tucked my long hair
beneath my baseball cap.
I found T-shirts
in olive drab to pair
with red bandannas
and black jeans, idolized
TV girls who threw
punches like men.
My knuckles were young.
In Walmart, the old man,
his hand on my shoulder,
a "Slow down, son," and I turned
and he saw what I couldn't hide but tried:
this girl's face,
round mouth, small breasts
shyly pressed against my shirt.
My chest was a grenade,
the pin pulled.

The locker room joke is,
"One in six."
One in six is like—
one in six is like that.
One in six, amidst
the quiver of steel locker doors,
hiss of shower spray, sweat,
one in six is not like this,
one in six.
My lockermate strips
her damp shirt, sports bra.
I memorize the veins in my hands.

I ask my friends to rank them,
assign numerical value
till someone wins. These women
photographed in evening wear,
gauze and satin, their hair
in then-hip asymmetrical cuts
or spiral perms. My mother
saved the UPCs from her cigarette packs,
sent them in, the Virginia Slims
Book of Days the prize in my hands,
and my fingers drift
over these glossy prints
of black nylon stockings,
emerald green robes,
royal blue stilettos.
On the gym floor, sidelined
between volleyball matches,
I want my friends to treasure this too.
Instead, they gossip about boys,
birthday parties, and my Book of Days
slides back into my bag,
my fingers lingering
on the spiral binding,
the blue, faux-leather cover.

I cut the neckline
of her dress deeper, sew
the hem tidy over the swell
of her breasts. I feel guilty
that she is my worry stone,
but with each stitch,
I turn her over, tell her
one more thing I've never told anyone.
She watches my hands for me
and I try not to let them shake,
the force of blood pushing
through veins.
When I drop the needle, she tells me
secrets can keep you safe,
but never as safe as trust.

15. My mother's scissors are sharp, silver sound.
Long, dark strands fall in piles at my feet.

Amber Edmondson is a book artist living on a creepy, decommissioned Air Force base in the middle of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Her work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in several publications, including Border Crossing, Midwestern Gothic, and Menacing Hedge. She was nominated for Pushcart Prizes by Wayne State University Press and Storm Cellar Quarterly.

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