Sunday, January 1, 2006


It was church rule. All women and girls
must wear a dress that covered their knees.
In the hidey-hole under the hedge behind my house
I hiked my skirt, and hugged my knees.
Each bony knob fit in the cup of one palm,
and my chin fit between them. Wind played
with the baby-fine hairs. Pine needles tickled.
How funny the skin sliding over the kneecaps.
How soft the damp hollows behind,
where my fingers felt my heart beating.
When Mother called, I crawled out. I stood,
and the cotton fell in a ripple down my legs.
Now we would go to church and hear about Jesus.
He died on the cross, but first they stripped him.
He went naked to save us. All Jerusalem,
and all heaven saw his knees,
saw the boat of his hips, the wings of his shoulders,
his ribs, and long bones, and things I dare not name.
I wondered, I did not ask,
how could shame live in any body part,
after God had burned inside it like a sun?

Cheryl Gatling

published in Comstock Review

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