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Taking Off My Clothes

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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)
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Taking Off My Clothes

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