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self-portrait as aphrodite


sixteen & only in
the bathroom mirror
am i a woman.             finger
tousled hair, pin-straight & dry
as the crackle of scallop shells.

sunswept golden girl, good for two hours!
promises the cyan bottle spray.

i am good for two minutes,
wannabe bombshell—
shrapnel ribs
rising from the shower mist,
almost divine.

tonight, you touch me
for the first time, press
my knees into yours. there
on the bleachers, i hunger
into something sharp:
a woman, perhaps.

lingering, soft as sugar
& your blushing cheek.
the two of us, unspoken.
golden girl grazed
by a misshot arrow
so i pull away.

later i dance disco,
the bathroom floor my stage.
when i tire, i pull out
hair like tangled thread,
two minutes’ grace clogging my sink.

one day i’ll find me, split open—
an overripe papaya.
girl bled golden on cold tile
sparkling in her sea.

First published in Neologism Poetry Journal

IRIS CAI is a junior from the SF Bay Area. Her poetry has been recognized by YoungArts, Poetry Society of America, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, and is published in or forthcoming from COUNTERCLOCK, Rattle, Neologism Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. An alumna of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, she is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Eucalyptus Lit. When she’s not writing, Iris plays piano and takes too many pictures of her cat.

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