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Sara Pirkle

Sestina for the Repressed

What if I said you could kiss 

your best friend’s cool throat

at the holiday party’s end without

repercussion? What if, in fact, everyone

would cheer you on, including said lonely

friend, who has fancied you

secretly for years? What if you 

could surprise yourself, throw kisses

like confetti to all the lonely

Baptists on your block, whose throats

look like everyone 

else’s, naked that is, without

the slightest smack of lipstick, without

the faintest blush of guilt? You 

could teach a useful truth everyone 

is dying to learn, how one kiss

can alter a life’s forecast, how the right throat

against your mouth repairs all your lonely

years in an instant. Only the lonely

can dream of this: passion without

consequence, lips inchworming from throat

to earlobe, but you—yes, you—

about to pop like overdone pudding, could kiss

regret goodbye. Why not try for one

wild night? Two stockinged thighs, one

rogue thumb traveling like a lonely

pilgrim to the holy land. See, Judas’s kiss

was a blessing, not a betrayal. Without

him, there’s no story. Without mistakes, you

miss the point of life. Like a ruby-throated

hummingbird, you go unheard. In your throat,

Yes sticks like a wad of sourdough. The one 

person who knows you best could hurt you

with her disappointed face…if only,

her eyebrows might say, her lust flaming out.

Fear is heartache’s father. With a kiss,

Fear tucks you in. Night’s lonely throat

swallows chance after chance until you’re out

of shots and left with no one to kiss.

Teenagers Making Out in Rose Hill Cemetery

Their leather jacketed bodies rollick 

against cracked gravestones. 

Like a rebellion. 

Her greedy hands grasp 

his collar, his fist grips 

a rope of her wispy red hair. 

The air can barely contain them. 

To kiss like that 

would kill me. 

Bring on death, I think, if it’s from that. 

Only, I didn’t come here to die, 

or even honor the dead, 

just to walk in a clean, quiet space, 

green hills like manicured nails. 

I came to forget 

the ache left 

after the act of love. 

And here they are, bright reminders, 

writhing as if pierced by arrows 

between the shoulder blades, 

their elbows beating the sky 

like vigorous wings.

The Morning After My Bilateral Mastectomy

The surgeon having not prescribed morphine, 

I could only survive by pretending I was elsewhere. 

Searing pain from the eviction of both breasts 

blazed through my body like a grease fire. 

I imagined lounging on a scarlet beach towel 

beneath a punishing sun, heels digging into hot sand.  

The IPC cuffs inflating around my legs 

were a blond man’s hands massaging my calves. 

Between the inhales and exhales of hospital machines,

I asked the blond man, what’s your name?


Intermittent, he whispered. Pneumatic, he blew on my knees.  

Compression, he squeezed tighter. Device

His long fingers inched up my thighs. 

Not with my husband close by, I murmured. 

Then my husband, who lurked in the hospital room corner 

all night, was at my side. What is it? Do you need the nurse? 

His wan face, wrinkled from sleep, hung over me 

like some reverse dreamcatcher. Water, I said, 

though what I wanted was an island, quiet and dry. 

A tangerine bikini and a man who could talk me out of it.  

Sara Pirkle is the author of The Disappearing Act, which won the 2016 Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. Her poems have been published in Rattle, Reed, Entropy, TAB, The Raintown Review, Emrys, and Atticus Review, among others. Sara has received writing fellowships from The Anderson Center, I-Park Foundation, and The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. She is the Assistant Director of Creative Writing at The University of Alabama, where she also hosts the Pure Products Reading & Lecture Series.

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