an online showcase curated by Maya Kóvskaya



by Melissa King Rogers



We were drawn to them the way kids crave
adults who are not their parents, camp coaches
we could carve out crushes on and not feel

creepy. He was a grizzly, big hands, a mean spiral.
He called the plays in pick-up football after Prayer Circle                 
where they’d one-up each other for the roughest sack

and wear their bruises like medals. We girls hung
sidelines for boys we hoped would notice. I’d watch
my breath fill the air and disappear, imagine her

back then, pigtails and pom-poms, quarterback sweetheart
cheering his passes. To be in love like that. We ogled
her wallet snapshots like flashcards for some far-off future:

homecoming tiara, honeymoon sunset, reception shots
with their grownup secrets, his thick thumbs up her dress
snapping the garter at her thigh. She taught us                         

how to weave a French braid that wouldn't unravel, how
you could cry through waterproof mascara, how to pluck
your eyebrows: Ice it first, she said, you won't feel

the sting. None of us expected her to lift her flannel nightgown
to show us the scarred leg scooped out like a cantaloupe, half                      
her thigh grafted over with her own flesh for what the venom took.

A lumpy seal of skin like pressed candle wax. She never saw
the spider. Just an itch at first, the ache too late, her flesh
already rotting to the bone. Could’ve been worse, she said,

but the thread of her voice pulled taut and thin, and I                         
couldn’t stop wondering where they got the good skin,
what other parts of her were missing. Later we’d hear

her husband had cheated on her with some woman
he’d been seeing since the fall. They’d left the church
when the whispers spread of that sort of man with our               

children. Cruel and fourteen, virgin, stupid, we joked
of the grotesque flesh that drove him away. In that hunger
not to be lonely I laughed with them. But later, I’d think

of her lying alone in their bed, her hands searching
for his touch. How even touching herself must have been                  
like feeling someone else’s skin. How she'd come to borrow
a piece of us, something unpoisoned to hold onto.



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