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“It’s going to hurt,” she told me,

“and we’re going to bleed.”

Such was the burden saddled upon us.

Boys looked her way and she looked away

and the blinds were always too thin.

She rose, stumbling, from the water with an arm

shielding both her breasts, crying

my name.

As if there was anything I could do about it.


It’s been a long time

since I turned in that direction,

since I lay awake with her to pose questions

about their bodies and the hair on their stomachs

and how long we had to wait for them to spill.

Fear planted itself on us

like the barnacles sucking on the dock,

a slit 

in the gaping maw I knew inside me.

Our teachers told us to pray a Hail Mary

if we went too far.

“Don’t let him go in,” they said.

“Don’t ever let him go in.”

Some nights I would undress and face myself in the mirror

and imagine Mary walking in my skin.


She’s happy now,

hangs off the arm of a good Catholic boy with tanned skin

and short, fat fingers.

I want to ask her,

does it hurt you?

She stumbles from the water, thighs 

split open

by the edge of the boat,

and he barks a laugh out at her.

I want to ask her,

does he lay you down like a bride?

does he make you bleed?

Some nights Mary crawls into bed beside me

and says she knows I want it.

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