Muscle Memory

Janine Joseph

Over — before touching skin, she drapes, then touches,

through flannel, me. Maybe, to her, I feel

dead when, over me, her hands move, through the weave,

                    to touch my arches, ball to heel, then up, high

                                     enough she must gather, like a curtain, and draw

                                                   the table sheet back. It is not rest where I, face down,

                                     in the eucalyptus room, go. It is not breath she kneads

                    when, in me, she splits, realigns, a crossing of tissue. It is not

                                     her who, from me, tenses a fire, an island, then

                                                   arcs, the length of me, knotting. Who rouses

                                     therapied me first — the churn of his hands that slid, then

                    stilled atop me, me who, in commotion within me,

                                     lay, like a crater, dormant. I warped, a chain she

                                                   shakes before striking hot the stone on my upper, then

                                     lower back where, he confessed, he therapied to touch,

                    to think, when he was with his wife, of me, of my island’s

                                     beautiful women, all alike and like its beauty. So,

                                                   he said, his hands a room, glacial. So beautiful,

                                     my hardening she elbows, knuckles, then wrings. Breathe,

                    long, deep, she draws, then drapes, when I’ve died, my skin.


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