Back to Issue Forty

Everything I Know About My Body


I know from watching
other bodies. Compared to mine
other girls’ legs are so smooth
under their blue P.E. shorts, but
my mother thinks I’m too young
to shave. Everything I’m told
about my body comes wrapped
in warnings: It’s weird the first time
but you get used to it. Boys don’t like
the way it looks. “Are you sure?”
my mother asks, saying the hair
will grow back thicker, spikier,
faster. I know I’m ready. I stand
in the tub, one foot propped
on the soap holder. My fingers
whisk the shaving gel to foam,
my hand grips the blade. Once you start
you can’t stop, a voice says again
in my head. I am eleven and I want
to be irrevocable. I want hips, breasts,
blood. I want what comes next.



Frogs Mating


My younger brother and I didn’t understand
why we couldn’t pry them apart—
squatting in our hands, pupils narrowed to ecstatic
slits, they seemed suctioned by aquatic glue,
one’s belly stuck to the other’s back, a frog kebab
without the skewer, a short stack gelatinous
and jiggling like baby fat. Our parents explained
that the frogs were mating, which was something
all animals did to survive, even humans.
Long after my brother got bored,
I studied the scrim of baubles on the surface
of the pond, each sphere with a small black bead
in its center, watching for pairs of heads poking up,
scooping couples from the water for inspection,
trying to find what fastened them.



Sea Witch


“I know what you want,” said the sea witch…
—Hans Christian Andersen, “The Little Mermaid”

Your tongue in my hand rippled coralline whelk spun
from its shell mollusk’s muscular foot

the frenulum frilled by my blade blubbers

I know what you want once I bartered what was most beautiful in me
for a boy the chance to stand close to him once

I was fifteen years old in my velveteen dress in the school gym
streamers springing sargassum from the basketball hoops

Your tongue in my hand rosy calf pulsating gibbous
flush bruise watery mooneye

I saw him in his tiewhen he pressed his cheek against mine
I swilled the salt of him I know what you want

You clutch the crystal vial my dead garden trills your transgression
pharyngeal embryons fade to soundless

Your tongue in my hand licks my palm lapping flame
its tip drips blood to my purlicue it writhes and rolls mewling bloom

I know what you want I would have worn my new legs anywhere
to taste him again Your tongue unfurls in my hand

in the parking lot his white Jeep stained the air like a ghost



Arielle Kaplan is a poet and educator from Philadelphia. She holds an M.F.A. from Boston University, where she was the recipient of a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry. An editorial assistant at AGNI, she also holds an M.A. in Education and teaches undergraduate writing in the Boston area.

Next (Patrick Phillips) >

< Previous (David Ehmcke)