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The Things That Once Felt Safe: An Inventory by Courtney Seymour

by Courtney Seymour

I ran my thumb up the

edge of

last week’s grocery list

then pulled, fresh

slip at the ready:


My pliant trunk slung

across the frame of his

parked car arced forward

crack of my hip with the

brass of open-palmed

familiarity in his



My body tucked inside

his elbows, knees

a china cup stacked in his yet

toppling as the passenger

seat became a communion table,

my gilded thigh set out for

the taking


Rocked back, pelvis landing on

bone and hands in my hair

and in between

and how he showed me all

the restraint of which he was

able, presented to me

this prize

as the cat might drop his

prey at the end of my bed


Hand flat, pupils fixed

and I didn’t even feel

the first wave—

an exploratory pass across

my left cheekbone, a second slap

and a sentence wrought of that

I had already turned down

in speech and in my silence

I knew no word for safety


My neck in the crook of

his hand, fingers tense

and his eyes pressing into

me with forceful purpose drawn

from my collar and my

breastbone bared so deep

that it could barely breathe

the names he dared to call me


Ivory bleeding down

my arms and torso taut,

prone and flexing at the end

but no, his presumption reigning

down on my humiliation

etched in milky letters:

“this is (not) okay”


This head a storm

and out to sea,

his spleen, like contempt

but cushioned by

the hotel pillows between us:

a parting, and he walked back

with his unasked for-giveness

an offering thrust in my way:

“to be clear:

you were out of control”


My pliant trunk slung

across the sheets and hearts

and off the margins of

this tarnished screen—the movie plays

my retina burned familiar scene

this night of what was

to be a poem but ended

in “but I’m not done”

and “I will forever deny that

I betrayed you”—

a sacred misconstruction of my

fraying seams


Once upon a time

he ran his thumb up the

edge of

my jade cotton dress

then pulled, fresh

slip at the ready:


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