Writers Institute

Two Girls Tanning

Outside, where heat hangs suspended like clouds of dust
and the lawn glows smooth and green like sea glass,
my daughter and her friend sunbathe,
as if the light is water;
they soak themselves and drown themselves beneath it,
feel it drip from strands of their hair, down their cheeks,
and rest in pools on their backs.
I told her she'll get wrinkles--
her skin will bunch and fold and crumple like dough--
beneath the kitchen window
they bake and brown like meats.
The friend wears a bikini, and her stomach,
slick with sun block, shines like a compact mirror,
flat and small and even, up and down her abdomen.
She squeezes half a lemon on her bent and brittle hair
and slides three fingers over her ribs.
My daughter wears a one-piece, black, because black hides
and a tiny sheet of extra skin pushes the suit, imprints
and dents and shapes it, like rocks beneath a snow drift.
Her mouth contracts, and I can see her try to keep it down
sucking back breath to smooth it out.
She's started doing jumping jacks before she goes to bed-
above the living room, the ceiling thumps and rumbles
like drum canvas with her steps-
and now I rinse dishes at the window,
watch her watch this friend and watch herself in turn,
and don't know how to stop it before it starts,
or if it's even starting.
Beginnings are like fires;
match strike after match strike until one works
and it all blazes upwards,
and who's to say which strike
should have been nipped, eliminated, for prevention;
who can know just when an intervention could have kept it
dormant, raw and cold?

Miriam Lawrence
Brookline, Mass.
Teacher: James Connolly

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