Melissa Roberts


The room feels small or large
depending on how small you are within it

and whether or not a man is touching you
while you're thinking about something else—




how the late rain might touch you

or that it's hard to get used to how much
you can see in the dark 




There comes a time when a girl
must stop wishing herself storybook:

there was no garden before the bitten apple, no

sun-bleached, cartwheeling




Just the usual fumes
breathed down the shirt of childhood

the exposed bulb's available light




Doesn't a girl need to learn
sooner or later

to let a man's breath turn her to vapor?




The girl is quiet—believing she traded
her voice for passage to shelter 




So let memory alter it: insist
on recalling other bodies

harmless and pliable as starfish
and kids who jumped off the wooden dock—





Pretend that when the sky opens what rains down
will be only rain—

and when it's over the only damage impersonal
as the seasonal flooding

of some murky river




That what lands on you hard
might land this time with indifference

Think of the earth unmoved
by the hunger of men trapped in a mine pit




men waiting what feels like a long time
for the worst part to be over—




in the body, which would have you believe
the world needs another

feeble fortress




One day the men are delivered
to the blinding surface

where everyone is rumored to be happy




In that kind of light bodies look like apparitions

Like pencil sketches—




The girl pretends to sing to herself
She imagines the sound of her own voice

how threateningly it would move
the numb air