before she turned twelve years old.
She was shown photos of herself as a baby
with both hips in traction and the body
cast that followed. That little girl was propped
up like a doll in the blue and yellow chair,
her bottom half bound in white plaster,
appearing to passersby as an unfinished plaything.
There were openings in that pale shell
for elimination—her humanity made real
by the smell of the cast after a few months.
She could not see or touch her private places, but
others could. She was a paper doll and someone
took a pair of black-handled scissors and lopped
off her bottom half. When the woman she became
imagines pleasure, it ends at her belly button.
From the waist down she knows she is plastic—
pale and dull to all touch. Sometimes she remembers
that other women feel what’s between their legs
is equal to love and tries to find a man.
Later, she will look at herself in the bathroom mirror,
hung high enough for her to avoid her torn-up
hips and legs—see her version of complete.
Erin Lynn Marsh is a poet living and working in Bemidji, MN. She is the author of Disability Isn’t Sexy (Jules Poetry Playhouse Publications, 2019), which was nominated for a 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. Her work has appeared in Post Road Magazine, Sugar House Review, Paper Darts, Emrys Journal, wordgathering.com, and the anthology Hers: Poets Speak (while we still can), Vol. 2 (Beatlick Press and Jules’ Poetry Playhouse Publications, 2017), edited by Jules Nyquist. She was a 2019/2020 Region 2 Arts Council Artist Fellow and was previously awarded two Individual Artist Grants. You can find her online at erinlynnmarsh.com.