Carolyn Forché
Taking Off My Clothes (1976)

1

I take off my shirt, I show you.

2

I shaved the hair out under my arms.

3

I roll up my pants, I scraped off the hair

4

on my legs with a knife, getting white.

   

5

My hair is the color of chopped maples

6

My eyes dark as beans cooked in the south.

7

(Coal fields in the moon on torn-up hills)

   

8

Skin polished as a Ming bowl

9

showing its blood-cracks, its age, I have hundreds

10

of names for the snow, for this, all of them quiet.

   

11

In the night I come to you and it seems a shame

12

to waste my deepest shudders on a wall of a man.

   

13

You recognize strangers,

14

think you lived through destruction.

15

You can’t explain this night, my face, your memory.

   

16

You want to know what I know?

17

Your own hands are lying.