It began with miniature bruises, really.
An index finger pressed hard
onto the septum of the nose.
to rid the face
of one bony protrusion.
Counting to one hundred ten times.
A perverted rosary prayer nightly
without benefit of bead or crucifix
before disappearing into sleep.
Cuts followed later.
Innocuous little incisions,
if you must know,
in the places that had outgrown my bones.
Flesh that had grown too heavy sliced open.
to flatten flesh to bone.
My clever knife
doing the labor of leeches
across abdomen, thighs, calves even.
The cat-o-nine tails came later
whipping what is more into what should be less.
Beating down the desire
with faithful flagellation.
I admire my own fidelity
as the rhythmic stripes
play a kaleidoscope lament in my head
until the thrashing tool goes limp
splotched with blood turned
gristle and gray.
Tonight I count my body.
One knee. Two knees. A pair.
One breast. Two breasts. A pair.
Clamp each shut tightly
keeping anything that could penetrate outside
at a secure distance.
I am guardian of this body.
And I sit here erect and silent
not knowing where my bone begins,
where my flesh ends.
Marianne Peel taught English at middle and high school for 32 years. She is now retired, doing Field Instructor work for Michigan State University. She recently won 1st prize for poetry in the Spring 2016 Edition of the Gadfly Literary Magazine. She also won the Pete Edmonds Poetry Prize. In addition, Marianne has been published in Encodings: A Feminist Literary Journal;Write to Heal;Writing for Our Lives: Our Bodies—Hurts, Hungers, Healing; Mother Voices; Metropolitan Woman Magazine; Ophelia’s Mom; Jellyfish Whispers; Remembered Arts Journal. She will have poems published in the fall editions of Muddy River Review and EastLit Journal. Marianne also received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal and Turkey. She is a flute playing vocalist, learning to play ukulele, who is raising four daughters. She shares her life with her partner Scott, whom she met in Istanbul while studying in Turkey. Marianne also taught teachers in Guizhou Province, China for three summers, and she also toured several provinces in China with the Valpraiso Symphony, playing both flute and piccolo, in January of 2016. Most recently, Marianne was invited to participate in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop in June 2016.