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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Carts That Go Bump in Life

by Kellie L. Thurman

Back in the day, she was built like a brick shit house. By back in the day, I’m referring to the 80s, when sex, drugs, and stadium rock-n-roll were the norm. We were often mistaken for sisters, two peas in a pod…or like two shoulder pads in an acid-washed jacket.
Standing under the harsh lights at the Wal-Mart, with decades behind us, the shit house had exploded.
We accidently bumped carts in the household section.
“Well, hey there.” She smiles, tiny teeth, all gums. I remember this is something she doesn’t like about herself.
“Well, hey you!” I smile back.
We were once inseparable, best-friends a long time ago. As adults, when our thirties had reeled us in, wrung us about, and cranked us out on the finished end, we were not.
Only our shopping carts touched now, not our lives.
Time had raced on.
Our paths had forked somewhere along the way.
I took mine.
She took hers.
Nothing bad happened…just life.
The steadfast commonality of our youth didn’t exist as adults. The only thing we have in common now is motherhood. It just isn’t enough.
My oldest, 20.
Hers, 19.
My youngest, 15.
Hers, 14.
All girls.  
Stair steps and pay backs.
And now, here we stood, surrounded by toilet brushes and soap dishes.
I hold on to my cart; she holds on to hers.
Her mom jeans are pulled high over her belly, which was once washboard, but now a resting place for her once impressive D cups. My jeans are in style, low on my waist, thanks to thousands of crunches in the gym and high fiber/low fat in the fridge. There’s enough padding in my bra to stop a bullet. I know she remembers this is something I don’t like about myself.
All women have these self-proclaimed flaws.
We’re no different.
Yet, we are.
Her sweatshirt covers her bulkiness. My blazer accentuates my curves, curves that are so damn hard to maintain as the kids grow up and the years grow wide.
Her shoes…house slippers. My wedges are cobalt blue, this fall’s trendy color.
Once so big, auburn and full of Aqua Net, her hair is now limp and dead, home hair color on the ends, gray at the roots. My edgy pixie cut is clipped neat.
With no makeup, her face is tired, wrinkled.
I’ve spent an hour putting on my face, and a fortune on anti-wrinkle creams.
I think of how old she looks and wonder if I look just as old. I know that I am tediously trying to hold back the inevitable. I wonder if she realized that in herself, and just gave in. Did she think I was a fool and she the smart one? Or, am I the smart one and she the fool?
“How are your girls?” I ask, trying to see the girl in the woman standing before me.
“Good. Yours?” she asks…fidgeting. She was always the hyper one. I smile because I catch a glimpse of the past in her.
“How are you getting along since your dad passed?” She shows concern, but toys with her hair, pulling it back in a make believe pony tail, letting it go…pulling it back…letting it go.
“It’s hard; you know that.” I now understand the void she has always felt. Her dad has been gone over 20 years. Our dads have both died from cancer, but decades apart.
“Mom’s birthday is tomorrow. I’m looking for towels to match her bathroom,” she adds.
“Aaaaw. Your mama is a sweetie.”  
The woman was a genuine saint in my book, especially dealing with us as teenagers.
“How old is she?”
“I had forgotten that our moms were the same age.” I smile like a dope… at one time we knew this, and now, I’m remembering it again.
I wonder if the wrinkles around my mouth are just as pronounced as hers. When I look at myself in the mirror every day, do I not see what others can spot right away, especially if they haven’t seen me in awhile? Was she seeing in me right now, what I was seeing in her?
Surely not.
But I make a mental note to buy more creams, stay out of the sun.
Another pair of shoppers shuffle through our aisle. The old lady in orthopedic shoes is complaining to her husband that she can’t find a damn thing. We smile at them. They ignore us. The man seems miserable and the woman is on a mission to find a new toilet seat, there’s no time for pleasantries.
We continue on, chatting about our girls. Our youngest both made honor-roll. Her oldest is still trying to ‘find herself’; mine is struggling through nursing school.
“Bub’s still outta work.” She sighs. I know that Bub is always in and out of work.
“Times are hard. I’m sorry,” I console, but I need to end our bump in. Time, and little of it in the day, is still rushing on, pushing me further away from my then and knee deep into my now.
“It was good seeing you, but I gotta get. Good luck with your towel search; tell your mom happy birthday! We’ll get together!”
I know we will never get together.
“Good seeing you! Yes, we’ll get together.”
I know that she doesn’t really want to get together either.
We part.
She heads toward the bath towel section.
I head toward the check out.
I am not sure why we won’t get together; we just won’t.
It’s complex, but simple at the same time, as adult life tends to be.
Are we each proof to the other that the past is as lost as our youth, which was supposed to rock out and party on dude, forever? Or is the effort too much? Is it too overwhelming for each of us…that we are what the other one cannot, or will not be?
Our worlds are different now. Back in the day, our roles as best friends were set in that proverbial stone, and as solid as our hard, tall hair. Our bestie bond was built on who we were at that time. And who we were, is gone.
I want to quickly glance over my shoulder and take one last peek of who I was back then, because seeing her does that for me, no matter what she looks like now. She is my portal back to the me before the me now.
But I don’t.
I continue on…pushing my cart one way while she pushes her cart another.

Kellie L. Thurman makes her home in East Central, Indiana. Recently, she has been published in Spotlight on Recovery Magazine, The Christian Journal, On the Premises and Micro-Horror. She holds two degrees—Business Management and Organizational Psychology. After the recent death of her father, she has decided to write full time. She is currently working on short stories of all genres and a memoir/novel about her late father.


by Dreama Pritt

“Simone Weil was right; there are only two things that pierce the human heart: beauty and affliction. Moments we wish would last forever and moments we wish had never begun.”
                                                        ~John Eldredge, Desire
The marks on my son’s skin were ugly. At least a dozen red, raised welts, long and thin, covered the right side of his neck. I rushed over to him. 
“Oh, my goodness! What happened?” I’m sure my voice was shaking.
He looked up at me after pausing his video game, puzzled, with no sign of discomfort or pain in his bright blue eyes. “What are you talking about?”
“This, on your neck,” I said, gently touching one of the welts. “How did you get these marks?”
Still looking confused, he lifted his hand to his injury. “I dunno, Mom. I had a little itch and I scratched it,” he said. “Why are you freaking out?”
I couldn’t believe the angry lines were from the normal scratching of a normal itch, but within ten minutes, all the marks were gone. My son insisted that he hadn’t been in any pain. Later, he was diagnosed with a fairly innocuous autoimmune disease called dermatographia.
“It literally means ‘to write on the skin,’” his pediatrician said. She confirmed the diagnosis by tracing on his arm with a tongue depressor, recreating one of the inflamed lines we’d seen before. 
The Mayo Clinic’s web site says that dermatographia “leaves no lasting marks.” My son, always the performer, is not above masking the dysfunction by using the effect on his skin as a party trick, turning his problem into a talent. Since learning of this disorder, I’ve seen images of people who use its effects for art. After drawing designs on their skin, they photograph the results, preserving the short-lived pictures raised on their reusable canvases.
I wonder, though, about the things in our lives that do leave lasting marks.  Certainly, some physical injuries leave lasting scars, but I’m thinking about a deeper impact, marks that cannot be seen. Not skin-deep, but soul-deep.  Not derma-deep, but pneuma-deep.
The experiences that stay with us the longest are those that prick the heart, whether sharpened by beauty or affliction. What sticks in the memory? What details won’t leave? What bits do we grasp tightly, desperate to not lose? The answers to these questions define us. Shape us. Our perspectives shift, as new experiences come, as new lines and couplets are etched into our often pierced hearts. Light and dark entwined write on the soul.
To write on the soul. That’s it exactly.

Sunlight bounces off blonde curls. The front porch is hers alone for the moment; her mother is just inside the open door. The toddler is content, curiously looking down as her bare toes explore the cool, rough surface of the concrete. An unexpected wind catches the storm door, and it swings wildly toward the blissfully unaware baby girl. As the door reaches the apex of its swing, the glass pane, adjustable to let in or keep out the fresh air, loses its hold on the door. Her mother gasps and speeds toward her daughter, even then knowing there’s no way she can make it in time. The storm door swings back into place, but the glass falls directly over the little girl’s head. It crashes. Splintering. Shattering. The girl’s mother, fear and adrenaline at full blast, rushes to her daughter’s side. Instead of cuts and blood, tears and pain, the little girl looks up unscathed. The broken glass has fallen around her in a perfect circle.

My mother always tells me that I have “blonde skin.” It is still fair, though my blonde curls deepened to chestnut before I left elementary school. A myriad of scars, both faint and dark, chase stories—wrecking a bike shoved a tooth through my lip there, taking a kitchen knife from my four-year old niece opened my pinkie here, surgeries, falls, and no idea where I got those—around my body. I love them, really. Like shadows in a painting, memories—even of pain—grant an air of character to my past.
I was protected, that day on the porch. Supernaturally, I think. But I can’t really explain why. And I don’t remember it for myself; I was too young to hold onto any memories, good or bad. When I see it in my mind, it is from my mother’s perspective, a soundless video, insulated from noise and fear and speed. I don’t remember the first time I heard the story; I don’t remember how many times I’ve heard the story; but I do know that it is a beginning in my story. A marker of who I will be. A marker of who I will become. Shards of glass not touching my body, but engraving my soul.
I wonder at the scars I have, and I wonder at the scars I don’t. 

My first memory comes to me, sieve-sifted through years of shame, of shadow, of light, of love. That day, too, was a mixture of light and darkness. The sun outside was bright, but inside my Daddy’s workshop, the light was murky at best; sunlight only peeking through the cracks, illuminating dust motes and sawdust in the air. The walls were corrugated tin—dull metal corduroy encasing, enclosing. I was only three or maybe four, without the words to understand, without the words to tell.
“Do you want to see what makes babies?” my uncle said.
I backed away slowly, my arms at my sides, palms behind me, fingers splayed. I shook my head side-to-side timidly, terror-stricken. My eyes must have been as wide and full of fear as they felt.
“Don’t worry,” he said, with a note of amusement in his voice. “I won’t do it to you.”
The images that followed are engraved in my mind, though I didn’t know the words. His hand on his penis. The color of his ejaculate. I knew only that I was afraid. I don’t remember how I escaped, although I was standing by the door. I imagine he was laughing as the door closed behind me.
He didn’t touch me that day.
He would.

Some of my stories, I wish I could unread. Can you call a wound that never completely heals a scar? Words of pain weep bloody tears, staining my face, my hands, my life. That unhealed little girl’s heart still beats in my chest, and I wonder why I was protected from falling glass only to be damaged in other ways. Still, I’ve found divine grace in which to rest, and I find compassion written on my soul alongside the uglier words.         

The Easter sun shone in through the gauzy white curtains and the French doors leading out to the patio on the river. Five days—two more than doctors said we’d have—had passed since my father’s devastating stroke, and most of our immediate family was gathered to spend the day together at Hospice. The beauty of the facility and the graciousness of the staff gave us much comfort during those uncertain days, but my Mom and I had been there—and at the hospital, too, before he was transferred—nearly every minute. We were tired. Dad, proving himself once again to be the biggest, strongest, most contrary man in the world, had defied the medical establishment—never regain use of his right side, never speak or understand any language—by moving the arm and leg on the damaged side of his body (even standing up with assistance), communicating with gestures and spoken words. He still refused food and drinks, though, and his Living Will prevented any nutrition or fluid except by mouth. He seemed to be improving, but even though he had far exceeded the best case scenario presented by his doctors, we didn’t know if it would be enough. He hadn’t had any fluids since the first day in the hospital. Dehydration was taking its toll. Hope and despair kept trading places.
On Easter, though, the world looked brighter. The sun was shining. My brothers scared up a wheelchair and helped Dad into it. He pointed which way he wanted them to take him, and he put his foot down so that the wheelchair wouldn’t budge until he was ready to move. They spent a couple of hours outside in the sunshine, surrounded by trees and flowers. Dad was in a hospital gown, his own pajama pants, and socks with no shoes. The ensemble was topped off with my oldest brother’s bright white Adidas ball cap. Dad was full of personality that day—more himself than he’d been since the stroke. He played jokes on grandkids and visitors; we even heard him laugh—a jagged, rough, broken, joyful laugh.
While the boys had him occupied outside, I took a shower and tried to rest.  Nights alone with only me, Mom, and Dad were difficult, even with the Hospice staff a call button away. I was sleeping, when I slept, on a pullout couch. Dad was restless, and even with half his body not working, he was stronger than we were. He’d fallen more than once trying to get up by himself, and he fought us when we tried to help him. The constant struggle was stressful.
When Dad was ready to come back inside, Mom took pictures as each family member gave him a hug. Dad had always been famous for his bear hugs—hugs that found your feet floorless, your back cracked, and your breath uncatchable. He hugged everyone, all the time—I don’t think I ever saw him without being wrapped up in his safe embrace. 
When it was my turn, I walked over to his wheelchair with my arms extended and a big smile on my face.
“Can I have a hug, Daddy?” 
He stopped smiling. He set his jaw, and he shook his head, side-to-side.
He said no. 
I laughed—a fake laugh—and put my arms around him anyway. But my heart was pierced. Broken.
I was already putting off my grief.  I didn’t want to mourn him while he was still breathing. I shoved the unexpected hurt of that moment and its unshed tears into the compartment in my mind alongside the fathomless loss of my father. I hid myself in busyness, taking care of little things. Taking care of other people. 
Every moment of my life, I knew unquestionably that my father loved me. I knew that I could count on him. I had seen him drop everything and drive six hours just because I called and said I needed his help. But on that day, in that moment, he rejected me. He couldn’t speak well enough to explain—and I was afraid to ask.
The unexpected hurt of that moment still holds me. I’m haunted. He’s gone now, and I will never know why he withheld that hug.

I remember when I was a little girl, and Daddy and I were playing a game. I remember that, somehow, I got hurt. I remember crying while he held me.  I remember him saying that he was sorry. I remember that he said, “I love you. I would never hurt you on purpose.”

As Easter waned, Dad was stretched out in the too-small hospital bed, his six-foot, six-inch height exactly matching the length of the mattress. The light through the window was softer now, the blue walls almost smoky gray in the evening light. The room felt hushed after all the excitement and visitors of the day, and it was just my Dad and me.
I knelt by the bed. After the first night when he fell out of it, the Hospice nurses lowered it as close to the floor as it would go. I looked into my Dad’s eyes, and the tears I’d been suppressing came unbidden. I saw love and compassion in his face. I laid my head on his chest, and I wept. His left hand, the one he could control, smoothed my hair until my tears stopped.

Dreama Pritt, Marshall University alumna and current member of the MU English Department, is a Maier Award-winning and AWP 2013 Intro Journals Project-nominated author whose publishing credits include Et Cetera and Christianity Today's Her essay “Remembering a Legend” was highlighted as part of a Creative Non-Fiction Panel at the 2012 COLA Research and Creativity Conference.


by Chelsey Clammer

My first sponsor was a four-foot-two black woman who used to be a police officer. I do not remember her name. She would sit in meetings and knit sweaters for her grandchildren, pink and yellow cotton yarn twisting around her knobby knuckles. She asked one day if the theme of the meeting could be forgiveness. Her reasoning, she said, was because “I need y'all to forgive me because I forgot to take my medication this morning.” Immediately upon her confession about her mental instability I wanted her to be my sponsor. I could connect with that.

I want to say her name was Shirley. This was two years ago in Chicago, where I first got sober. I was in those meetings because I was trying to stick to my sobriety, trying to make it a permanent thing in my life.

I was fresh out of the psych ward where I spent the days sitting in group therapy and learning about my “hot thoughts.” The lot of us patients sat around in a circle, our common element that we were a bunch of suicidal people trying to understand what made us tick. What was making me tick was that I was drinking too much and was always wallowing in the thoughts of my dad who died of alcohol poisoning. I didn't want to say this in any of the psych ward group therapy sessions because then I would have to talk about my own drinking habits.

One day, though, a social worker called me into her office because she wanted to “assess” me.

“How much do you drink?” The social worker asked. She had a plump, chalky face and crisp blonde highlights. Gray streaks showed through. She looked tired, bored as she assessed my drinking habits.

“Oh just a few beers every other night,” I lied.

“That's almost a lot.”

Fuck, I thought. Even my lie sounded like too much. If only she knew how much I really drank—two bottles of wine a night, along with some start-the-night-right shots of whiskey—then she would probably throw my ass into rehab.

“Most people only drink a few times a week. But if you're drinking, let's say four times a week, then there is a chance you might have a problem with alcohol.”

Hell yeah I do, I wanted to say. I drank every night, and it wasn't only beer. I had my nightly habit of wine and whiskey, my 3pm starting time with happy hour Margaritas, and my morning hangover cure of a Bloody Mary. But I kept quiet in her psych ward office, stared at the yellow walls stuffed with our bodies.

She turned on her computer and went to an Alcoholics Anonymous page.

“Let's get you set up to go to a meeting when you are released.”

“I'm an atheist,” I said flatly. I knew that AA was all about god and spirituality, and I wanted none of it. I possibly had a desire to stop drinking, but only because I wanted to stop being hung-over. But I still wanted to drink, could not even fathom what my life would be like without it.

“It's okay,” she said, as if my atheism were a flaw. “There are AA meetings for atheists, too.” She made a couple of clicks on the computer, and printed a list of meetings I could go to. “Here, keep this and go to a meeting when you are released.”

“Sure. Thanks,” I said and pushed out of the chair. I returned to the group therapy room and stuffed the list into the trashcan before anyone could see it. I did not want to be an alcoholic like my father. I believed it was a despicable thing to be, and no matter how much I knew I should stop drinking, how much I knew the drinking was ruining my life, I would not admit this. I did not want to be like him.

But I am like him.

When I was released from the psych ward a week later, I did, in fact, get my ass to an AA meeting. The hangovers became too much for me to handle, as well as the morning depression caused by them and the way I could not stop thinking about my dead, alcoholic father. At my first AA meeting, I met Shirley, or whatever her name was. Her squat little body sat across from mine, and I peered into her face after her “I forgot to take my medication this morning” confession. She didn't say anything else during that meeting, but I walked up to her afterward and asked if she wanted to be my sponsor. I thought that's what alcoholics do. They go to meetings and they get a sponsor.

“Well sure, honey!” she said in her sprightly little grandmotherly voice and gave me a hug. I could see the top of her head, see the gray wiry streaks that were sticking up above a mass of black hair that was slowly turning gray as well. She had glasses that swallowed her face, thick lenses amplifying the wrinkles around her eyes.

After the meeting we went across the street to a Mediterranean restaurant. I did not have anything to eat as I was trying to lose weight, because I did not know what else to do with my time. I used to consume my time with drinking, with the obsession over the drink. Without that in my life, I turned to trying to control my body, to obsess over my physical form. Shirley had a pita sandwich. In between bites in which tahini and bits of falafel dripped down her brown chin, she asked me to tell her about my life.

I didn't know where to start, what to say about my life. Most of the time I described myself by saying I worked at such-and-such place, or that I was a runner and interested in writing. I couldn't tell if she wanted to know about my drinking habits or just what kind of a person I was. I decided to not talk about myself.

“My dad was an alcoholic,” I said. “He used to get drunk and threaten suicide.”

“What?!?” she said. As she was an old woman, I couldn't tell if she said this because she couldn't believe it or because she couldn't hear me.

“Well, he died from alcohol poisoning six years ago, and now I'm starting to accept the fact that I'm like him, that I'm an alcoholic, too.”

“That's good, honey.”

She finished eating quickly enough so I didn't have to spill my soul to her that day.

We never met again.

But we did exchange phone numbers, and I would call her in the mornings on my way to work. We would say the serenity prayer over the phone together while I sat on the train. It felt awkward, but also a little comforting. With so much loneliness I was feeling now that I had lost my drinking buddies, it was good to have someone who would sit and talk with me, even if we were just saying a prayer together, saying the same memorized words at the same time. It was not a conversation, but a belief in the fact that you do not have to be alone, that even when two people are so vastly different you can find your connections—like being an alcoholic—and go forward with it.

I do not know what type of drinker Shirley was. But what I did come to understand was that she hadn't given up on life. She had come to accept that her life had become unmanageable when she was drinking, and so she turned her life over to the will of some higher power and said the serenity prayer every morning. During our Mediterranean restaurant meeting, as I kept quiet and watched her eat, Shirley did tell me a little bit about herself, a little bit about the traumatic events she had gone through—a runaway son, a horrible divorce, health problems—and was able to get sober and stay sober after all of them.

That is what I wanted.

I soon moved to Minneapolis to get out of the city in which I had so many drunk memories. I never told Shirley I moved, never spoke to her again, never said that prayer with her again.

Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women's Studies from Loyola University Chicago. She has been published in THIS, The Rumpus, Atticus Review, Sleet, The Coachella Review and Make/shift among others. She received the Nonfiction Editor's Pick Award 2012 from both Revolution House and Cobalt, as well as a Pushcart Prize nomination. Clammer is a weekly columnist for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, as well as the assistant nonfiction editor for Eckleburg and The Dying Goose. You can read more of her writing at:

Naked in Minnesota

by Cathleen Calbert

            When I made the trek to Minnesota from Rhode Island, I knew I’d moved to the Land of Introverts. Not only had Garrison Keillor already told me so on the Prairie Home Companion, but I’d also come across a sweetly misguided ad for a self-help group in the local alternative newspaper: “Introverts Unite.” Right. Like that was ever going to happen.
            Shy and nice: that’s how I found Minnesotans. They even had nothing but nice things to say about the East (whereas Easterners regularly turn up our noses at any place farther west than Philly). “Oh, sure, you’ve got some good Italian food there, don’t you?” they said to me.
            Good Italian wasn’t on the menu in St. Paul. (Canadian Walleye was—in nearly every restaurant, even a perpetually empty Thai dive.) I thought Minnesotans looked like they could use a little more Italian on their menus and in their blood: something to bring a bit of life to the pallid brows and cheeks. They seemed to me a neutral, withdrawn people: temperate and tepid book-lovers and/or healthy outdoorsmen and women.
            But I liked them.
            If the general vibe of the Twin Cities wasn’t effusively friendly or particularly passionate, it also wasn’t the “insult culture” of New York or Boston or Providence. No “Hey, I’m talking to my cousin heah.” No “Whadda ya want?” “O-key,” my hairstylist said to me sans judgment as I blabbed in her chair about my day. “O-key.”
            And it was among Minnesotans that I learned how to be naked. With others, I mean. Other women, at least.
            At the YMCA in St. Paul, I ran in the slow-motion of water and smiled hello at the other ladies in my morning Aqua-Aerobics class. At first, I didn’t get much back from them: a brief nod before they turned away. However, after some weeks, I began to receive a few greetings and even a few questions: How nice, Rhode Island! Don’t you have good Italian food there?
            At my gym back East, as loud-mouthed as we women were fully clothed, we hustled from the pool into individual, clammy shower stalls, dropping towels only to get our street-clothes back on as fast as possible. That’s what I did after class at the Y in Minnesota too,  ignoring the less claustrophobic open wall of showers that all the other women used.
            I didn’t get it. What about the well-known introversion of Midwesterners? Maybe it was a Scandinavian thing? From a heritage of jumping into snow-covered bodies of water after thrashing one’s bare limbs with frozen reeds?
            All I knew is that the women seemed happy, splashing away and making plans to meet for coffee while I alone bathed in isolation, so one day I braved the shared line of showers. I stood under a nozzle, tugged off my suit, and sudsed up, not looking at anything but the rain of water. Through this blur, I heard the woman next to me say something and realized, with discomfort if not outright horror, that she was speaking to me.
            “What?” I said, wiping my eyes.
            When I could see, I found that she was washing her armpits and looking into my face at the same time. Introverts unite! Suffering my own fit of shyness, I lowered my eyes and noticed her chest. Nothing was there: no recognizable breasts, that is, just concave scarring from the early days of radical mastectomies.
            And this looked . . . fine to me. Clearly, the woman had been to hell and back, but the furrowed valleys on her body only seemed an altered landscape of skin, not a horror-show, nothing to appall or to merit veiling. My own shame doubly shamed me then. How absurd: being afraid to expose the usual midlife drifts and harmless lumps on my own figure.
            “Do you want to join us?” she asked slowly and gently—as if there might be something wrong with me. “For coffee?”
            “I’d love to,” I said.
            About a dozen women, all in their sixties and seventies, greeted me at the cafĂ© that day as a younger sister. “Two rules,” one told me. “We don’t say anything bad about each other, and we don’t talk about our children.”
            O-key! I loved those rules, and I loved those women. During my time in Minnesota, I continued to go out for wonderfully strong coffee with them. We talked books and movies, mostly, and food—a lot of thoughts on food, even how to make decent Italian dishes at home. Since then, I have been free of humiliation about how I look, proud of each curve and every . . .
            Of course that’s not true. I still struggle with body-embarrassment as many (most?) women (and men?) do. But I don’t hide behind a germ-filled curtain when a more spacious, shared space is available, and I don’t speak ill of my body: the ladies of the pool in Minnesota taught me how to treat an old friend. 

Cathleen Calbert’s writing has appeared widely, including in Ms. Magazine, The New York Times, and The Paris Review. She is the author of three books of poetry: Lessons in Space (University of Florida Press), Bad Judgment (Sarabande Books), and Sleeping with a Famous Poet (C.W. Books). She has been awarded The Nation Discovery Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Mary Tucker Thorp Award from Rhode Island College, where she professes.