Detail from Dirty Laundry by Jamie Heiden, copyright J. Heiden Photography
Detail from Dirty Laundry by Jamie Heiden

Ruth Madievsky


I’m crossing the street at 6th and Grand
with eggs benedict and three shots of vodka
in my stomach, wondering
about the body and how it’s like an atlas,
how skin is another kind of map.
Like this morning, when a man
I barely know but feel inferior to
asked my friend,
Is that your real nose?, and she told him
it wasn’t, and how after,
everyone at our table
had asked to touch it, like it was a baby
or like they were looking for the ghost
nose beneath. And when the man asked,
What did it look like before?,
I remembered the party last summer
where we all wrote down
something we’d never told anyone,
and how after we’d mixed
our anonymous confessions in a red solo cup,
the scrap I pulled out said,
My boyfriend broke my nose.
I wonder if my friend was there that night,
if it matters. We’re all talking
out of our scars, hoping someone will ask us
what happened in the park when we were ten,
wondering why Downtown
smells how we feel, we’re falling in love
and thinking, Now what. On 6th and Hope,
stoplights change from one color
of bruise to another, in a bar, I get drunk,
a man asks a woman about the X
where someone she loved once buried his fist,
a body is opened like an oyster
in an apartment I pass on the way to my car,
a teapot sets off a fire alarm, a child
contemplates scissors, someone hums
a lullaby in their first language and someone
else begs them to stop. 

Dance Party

So you came to the dance party
feeling like liquid nitrogen,
a paper lantern, a ghost
the speakers were breathing, so your hands
had eyes, so hip hop music,
so watching other people be themselves
while you were yourself
and also a frog on a dissection table, but when the stranger
bumped against you, you didn’t think
about shoes hanging from telephone wires,
you didn’t think about God in his cloud-chariot
or the many gods dancing in your drink,
how long it takes to cool a body,
to twist an ankle, that the world is mostly salt,
how you were the shadow of the mini-bar
as much as you were the light
bouncing off the hook of the bra you were wearing,
so when the stranger spun you out
and pulled you back in, you weren’t wondering why
some tree in your head was always falling,
why when despair called your name
you always answered,
you were breathing and sweating
and feeling like someone
who had never walked through an alley
with keys between her fingers.