portion of the artwork for Aïcha Martine Thiam's poetry

Esprit d’Escalier
Aïcha Martine Thiam

Z, picture us in your
       tiled sea-foam green
              bathroom. Ticking off

                     like so the little box
              for “COMPARING NAKED
       BODIES” in the book of

Female Intimacy Initiatory
       Rites. You rumbled loudly
              you are so lucky, my

                     skin dissents, couldn’t
              swallow my bruises’
       stains like yours do. I

wish I could bleed in
       secret, I wish I could
              Oh, scratch that. We were

                     12 year old birdbrains,
              we never spoke with
       such sophistication.

But the gist of it was
       nearby, that day. You
              were going to have it

                     hard in life, and I
              might, but at least it
       wouldn’t show. You went

see, this right here.
       Yesterday I bit your
              forearm and it doesn’t

. And I tough-gal
              swaggered around the room
       chanting “nobody asks me

what is wrong” like I’d
       been wishbone-favored.
              You almost sold me on

                     the dream, Z; only you
              could do that under the
       glossy pretense that you

loved me so much, which
       must mean that you knew
              and saw me best. You

                     looked at me desiring
              yourself, and I took in
       your areolae, the color

of my favorite Starburst,
       thinking mine (already
              deflated in anticipation

                     of the years to come) were
              a bit more like sea-weed
       flaked around its fringes.

Sometimes when, idle,
       I pinch my chilly teat,
              I get the taste of candy,

                     tart but sweet, and my
              gums water. I wonder when
       you think of sea-weed, if

your mouth puckers too.
       I haven’t summoned eyes
              and the ensuing candor

                     in heaven knows x many
              years. Nowadays: I’ve
       taken to brutal snubbing

of Commiseration. When
       women want to bare to me
              I say “this ain’t the

                     Pain Olympics” and carry
              on. Nowadays: I say “don’t
       dare ask me what is wrong.”

Though we were discussing
       different kinds of bruises
              then, though I still love

                     the dream you sold me, “you
              are so lucky” shreds my guts
       every day. It’s been universes

since. Wherever you are,
       allow me this one pettiness,


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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 56 | Fall/Winter 2020