He spears me like a fish
on the spoke of pleasure,
one kiss on my bone, then hip,
then stomach, kissing its soft flesh.
His mouth works its way up,
and down. I am caught, gasping
for air, writhing, lost in sweet
sensations. “Stop please.” “Why?”
“You know why.” He waits.
I breathe. His lips and hands start
to chart my skin again. Is this what it is like
to die, I wonder? Too late. My own self’s gone.
A four-legged body not mine is mine.
He takes my hand and I am here again.
A sentient fish in an unmade bed.
His body warms me—my new blanket.
“Your feet,” he says, “are cold.”
“I am always cold.”
“And I,” he says, “am warm.”
Together, can we be
FOR MY SISTER, JUNE 1995
Tear. A hole in me now is. You’re somewhere
In the back of my mind, tucked away beneath
breakfast, coffee, the day’s agenda.
If angels live in heaven,
Wings fluttering, surely they would
welcome you in a hummingbird’s greeting?
Pieces of my heart’s garden now shredded. These
thoughts of you
Rise fluttering in my skull like birds—beating on air,
trapped in too small a space—my skull.
Truly memory is the mother of the muses.
My muse is you. Here. I am now writing.
My pitiful attempts to celebrate and mourn you,
miss you, look
This poem, even this page—will outlast you.
How strange. Like swallows darting over
The park by the Hudson, you pop into my head,
Into the line of my heart’s sight
Then vanish. Here you are not here,
Not as real or enduring perhaps, as this poem.
Thin skin, blood vessels close to the surface, mean
I bruise easily. “You’re too thin-skinned,” said my mother.
“You’re too sensitive,” said my father.
“Your skin grows thicker when you’re older,”
said my mother. “Past adolescence.”
I imagine myself an elderly armadillo.
Except with age, my skin gets finer, thinner.
On any given day, there is a bruise on my hip,
my knee, my foot, just as there was when
I was thirteen. What penetrates most and hardest,
lingering longest, are words, cutting into my flesh,
leaving invisible scars.
Language, who would have known that it could bury
me like dirt, putting me in the ground where I can decompose,
my flesh in the soil helping bring
forth foxgloves, gentians, columbines, roses,
lilacs and buttercups.
Kim Bendheim is a writer and teaching artist living in New York City. She has been published in The Forward, Fortune, The LA Times, The New York Times, The Nation, and Tikkun, among other places. She studied history and literature at Harvard and poetry in CCNY’s MA program with the late poet Bill Matthews.