Three Poems by Anna Gayle

landscape with sex and middle school hallways
after Lynn Melnick

mostly men keep singing
and I do not know what to call
the space between my legs
until they tell me—thigh gap

mostly men keep singing
and I remember the blue-striped
wall of the tiled hallway
and I remember
rows of lockers blurring

mostly men keep singing
and I was a girl
when I learned to run
a song chasing me
in some major key
because there is so much
to be glad about


blessed are the meek

the hallways behind the sanctuary kept our secrets tucked under their orange
carpet. the games of giving

birth: we laid our girl bodies on freshly
vacuumed lines and opened our legs and

squeezed a hand. we understood babies needed fathers but did not know how
fathers became themselves.

we did not ask questions: we brought boys to the back of the church to play
house and sometimes

let them kiss our mouths and sometimes
let them tackle us to the ground and sometimes

let our skirts gather at our waists, cotton lifting like halos over our heads.

we knew our shoulders were as secret as our knees; we knew sin began wit
sight and once we were seen

we could be touched, but not forgiven.
we knew Jesus died with his body on display,

so we let the boys undo our buttons and pin our palms to the stucco walls and
we took turns sacrificing.


in the beginning

            The man said, “The woman you put here with me—
                        she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:12

truth be told, Adam was the first body
violated in his sleep.

God dipped holy hands
between clay flesh and out of a rib

made permission
for men to do as he did.

the men I know say they are faithless,
but if they did not believe in Adam’s God

they would not know practices
as ancient as these:

entering an unconscious body.
breaking skin to see it bleed.

making soil of a wound
and naming each bloom

(even the weeds, even their seeds)

demanding a body, any body,
warm and thirsty.

molding miracles in cavities
and calling it good.

ending stories with words
like asking for it

and calling it good.

               Note: this poem borrows part of its first line
                           from “Confession” by Leila Chatti


Anna Gayle is a poet, educator, and artist whose work explores themes of black womanhood, collective femininity, and chronic illness. She is an MFA candidate in poetry at Oregon State University where she serves as the arts & comics editor for literary magazine 45th Parallel. Her poems have been published, or are forthcoming, in Rogue Agent, The Mantle, Thimble Lit Magazine, and Empty House Press. Anna’s work has been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology and a Pushcart Prize.

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