A Different Woman

Christine A. MacKenzie

I want to peel off the trees       like white birch bark

            some romanticized splitting of wood     or darkened into the folded

litterfall that must be silver      if you keep digging with your fingernails

            deep into the earth       so that he’ll never find me

not even in my mind                never find me  all curled up

            and rotten in the woods           like the rest of the women

who shivered from his touch     my skin is so white in the sun

            I want to peel it all off             so he can’t touch it

because even now I can smell him                  rise up from under the leaves 

            his voice          when I step over them             

and his smile’s wrinkles in bark          and I know I’m alone  but not alone

                        because the clouds       laugh at me      mock me          

and shower me with water      that reddens in my fists           

he’s still there              in my body      in my mind      some parasitic worm

that’s taken up shop in the soft curls   of my brain      or intestines     

I wish an ax could chop him off               an infected branch

but he’s shed me off in too many pieces                     to separate with a single swing    

because of him            a dark rush of a different blood runs through my veins 

I want to be different than what I’ve become              some neutral green that breathes