A Poem by Rochelle Hurt


A shirtless rack makes a cozy hang for beatings
if a girl’s hard-pressed or steamed. Words get worn
this way: at festivals, we tuck our violence in
our bras with cash for cigarettes and pretzels.
Neon sparks in spacious skulls — girlness is a gas
to tap, so we trap its heat against our breasts,

which vent little whines when the Zipper cage flips us.
Whipped fright froths our kid lips and we run
our mouths at the carnie hand-humping his lever
below. He holds us catawampus to better glimpse
our tits while shouts burst bright on blacktop sky.
For future wives, there is only coming down

from here, so we best burn serotonin slow
and tamp fissures with new clothes. Fashion
schools us: a slut can wear her insides out,
but sleevelessness is also cloak. Wal-Mart magic:
black-strapped tongues ventriloquize sex
into ribbed white cotton — a boy sees his skivvies

laid on his mother’s lap. A hurling urge
is natural, as far as we know, so we tempt a hit
to temper it — sheer force of half-flash. No soap
will wash the bull’s-eyes off our asses, so why not
don the darts, pre-marked as prizeless. Fair games
are always rigged — even girls know that.

Rochelle Hurt is the author of In Which I Play the Runaway (Barrow Street, 2016), winner of the Barrow Street Book Prize, and The Rusted City (White Pine, 2014). She is a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.