All little girls should be told they are pretty, even if they aren’t.
― Marilyn Monroe
all the difference. For the first ten years of my life
the lighting was off. There must be
a channel in my body
I could climb through back
into my girlhood. Where have
my freckles gone? And my stomach?
And my arms?
Where is the peppermint lip balm
that tingled on my mouth?
We all become aware of our bodies
through a series of trials.
No two bodies are the same.
It happens in waves.
A cut on my forearm.
Dabbing the blood.
Testing my mom’s lipstick
on the back of my hand.
My grandmother handing me a tissue
after catching me picking my nose.
It had been so dry and itchy.
My aunt jokingly shielding her face
as I clicked fork against plate
at a restaurant. Her embarrassment.
A beautiful boy puffing out his cheeks
pretending to be me on the playground.
A beautiful boy laughing
after I’d thrown up in the middle school hallway.
Him saying Maybe if she didn’t eat so much.
A beautiful boy asking me if I’d be his girlfriend
as a joke. His friends’ beautiful laughter.
Beautiful boys loving me with their teeth
and their hands. Smudging my eyeliner.
How terrible it is that I have become
a beautiful boy after all of that.
Have I learned nothing about beauty?
About boys? About who gets
to judge whose bodies?
I have learned that my face
is terribly malleable but always the same.
I have a jar of privileges.
I have crooked teeth
and tattoo of a tombstone.
I’ll be your beautiful boy,
if you’re in need of one.
BLACK INSTANT-DRY NAIL POLISH
It never dries fast enough.
I am a disquieted person and
sometimes I wish my life was smaller.
I could live happily the size of
a moth. My wings wrapped around myself
as I pace a book shelf.
I love beautiful boys with chipped nail polish,
preferably black. When I was in college
all the boys I liked painted their nails.
I gazed in awe from a distance.
Did I mistake the gesture?
Their hands holding wooden spoons
and ukuleles. Their hands folded in their laps.
Their hands wide and beautiful.
What could I do to be like them?
I fucked a boy with black painted nails.
I wanted to hold his fingers up to look at them
in the dim lamplight of his messy dorm room.
Instead I bit his neck.
Afterwards, I saw the polish bottle on his desk.
Instant-dry black, just like I used.
It had felt wrong to fuck him,
like instead of wanting him
I was wanting to learn how he was embodied
and how I might open each day the same.
He told me he didn’t want to be bit again,
that he wanted to try it this one time
but never again. I felt ashamed
for my hunger.
I bit my own knuckles
standing in front of my window
with the blinds pulled shut,
trying to wait for the polish to dry.
ROBIN GOW is the author of OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL DEGENERACY (Tolsun Books 2020) and the chapbook HONEYSUCKLE (Finishing Line Press 2019). Their poetry has recently been published in POETRY, New Delta Review, and Roanoke Review. They is a graduate student and professor at Adelphi University pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing. They is the Editor at Large for Village of Crickets and Social Media Coordinator for Oyster River Pages