I take off my shirt, I show you.
I shaved the hair out under my arms.
I roll up my pants, I scraped off the hair
on my legs with a knife, getting white.
My hair is the color of chopped maples.
My eyes dark as beans cooked in the south.
(Coal fields in the moon on torn-up hills)
Skin polished as a Ming bowl
showing its blood cracks, its age, I have hundreds
of names for the snow, for this, all of them quiet.
In the night I come to you and it seems a shame
to waste my deepest shudders on a wall of a man.
You recognize strangers,
think you lived through destruction.
You can’t explain this night, my face, your memory.
You want to know what I know?
Your own hands are lying.
Carolyn Forché, “Taking Off My Clothes” from Gathering the Tribes. Copyright © 1976 by Carolyn Forché. Reprinted with the permission of Yale University Press, http://www.yale.edu/yup/.
Source: Gathering the Tribes (Yale University Press, 1976)