The Poetry Project


Sophia Shalmiyev

Parents can watch; they cajole, support, affirm, but do not break the barrier to participate.

When I worked at a peep show with female management that sometimes took a turn on stage for old times’ sake, I couldn’t look in their direction. Mom, please drop off the cheese plate and leave the basement. My friends are starting to talk.

I like watching men at work by my train stop, in the pit. All day long they excavate and level; excavate and level. At night, they burn bright, yellow and hot, spotlights trained on the solid ground. I leave when noticed.

Now that you sat down to read this, kindly get up and stand on one foot. I can see you don’t feel like it but it’s important that you try this. You must find one part of yourself to squeeze really hard, like you’re wringing out a mop. Maybe you’re scanning your lower body only, but, no, consider all of you. Think about squeezing your nose or your forehead or your lips or your chin. Hold on to your teeth.

Consider strapping all of your five digits around your neck. Put your hand on your shoulder and claw at it a little. Move down to your chest and grab a breast, or two, if your hands are large and your chest is small. Go over to the rib cage and twist at the skin there. Stroke your belly, then fold it over like a taco and kneed the dough. Now work your way over to the crotch and decide what you can stand. Grope your thighs from inside out. Don’t forget the back, as much of it as you can reach, and pull at your love handles. Pinch your own ass. Try leaning over on one foot to grab your knees and roll the skin back and forth between your thumb and forefinger. Use the desk to get stable and squeeze your calves, and then, over to the ankles for a grab. Jam your finger in between your toes and make the hand shake as it digs out a place to cup.

You could only choose one part to squeeze. Why did you choose that one?

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