Cynthia J. Hollenbeck


            —for Jessie
Something’s pricking me
my nine-year-old says,
tugging at her crotch,
and I snap my head up,
You got hair down there
She nods with a half-smile.
Outside my bedroom window,
a breeze stirs the stripped
branches of a poplar, power lines
sway like playground swings— 
            I am eight, awestruck by
a girlfriend’s patch of downy
black.  Twelve, bearing
my own feathery triangle
to a neighbor boy who
pressed a quarter
in my palm.  Sixteen,
plucking my boyfriend’s
burnt-orange hairs from
my blanket and sealing
them in an earring bag,
tucked in a drawer in my
jewel box where the tiny
ballerina in pink tulle—
one hand poised above
her blond head, left leg
bent in a right angle—
spun to Feelings
You’re quite the young lady

I tell my daughter.  She beams
as if she’s been allowed into
a secret club, so tragically unaware
of the dues: copper-stained panties,
nipples pricked beneath T-shirts,
heart and seam split once, forever. 
I want to tell her that lovers can leave
behind no more than a scattering
of themselves— musk on bed sheets,
spilled seed on bucket seats, feelings
tucked away as if inside a chest. 
But the ballerina will keep on spinning,
impossibly red lips drawn in an O,
hand in the air like a stop sign, as if
she were protesting her fate to dance
all of her days, sprung to life by the lifting
of a lid, bent in half by the tip of a finger. 

Location: Moscow, Idaho
Occupation: Assistant to the Director of Catering at Best Western
Publications: Talking River Review, Fugue, The Ledge, etc.

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