Taking Off My Clothes

By Carolyn Forché b. 1950 Carolyn Forche
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)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Carolyn Forché b. 1950

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Nature, Relationships, Love, The Body, Desire, Realistic & Complicated

 Carolyn  Forché

Biography

Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1950, poet, teacher and activist Carolyn Forché has witnessed, thought about, and put into poetry some of the most devastating events of twentieth-century world history. According to Joyce Carol Oates in the New York Times Book Review, Forché’s ability to wed the “political” with the “personal” places her in the company of such poets as Pablo Neruda, Philip Levine, and Denise Levertov.

An articulate . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Relationships, Love, The Body, Desire, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.