"After Masturbating In The Tub" by Anna Evans

Maybe the best part
is the touching afterward;
you run your soapy hands
all over your wet skin,
the smooth pebbles of your hips,
the soft swell of your belly,
loving all of yourself equally.
No one looks anxiously
at a clock, clears a throat,
is already—in mind—moving on.
There is only you
and the perfectly discreet
bath water, cooling
gradually, from steamy
to the exact temperature
of a human body: yours.

"Eve’s Statement" by Anna Evans

He pressed his delicate weight
against my bare skin; his tender
differentness caressed my thigh, innocent,
somehow necessary: we were children
wanting warmth, or I

was dying from a lack of being
touched. I parted my lips, had to
steal a taste of that delicious
cheek-flesh. He said my violent
mouth meant he

deserved to come inside, be sheltered.
The serpent opened me; it was all
over very quickly, though the wound
bleeds again each month. I don’t know
anything about an apple.

"Cross" by Langston Hughes

My old man’s a white old man
And my old mother’s black.
If I ever cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.

If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I’m sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well.

My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I’m gonna die,
Being neither white nor black? 

"Punishment" by Seamus Heaney*

I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.

It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.

I can see her browned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rod and boughs.

Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin:

her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring

to store
the memories of love.
Little adulteress,
before they punished you

you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,

I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeur

of your brain’s exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles’ webbing
and all your numbered bones.

I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,

who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.

* Germanic peoples punished adulterous women by shaving their heads, then banishing them from their communities or killing them. Here the naked body of a young girl from the first century C.E. is being pulled from a bog where she was murdered by her community. The text also notes that in contemporary Ireland, women have been punished by the IRA for associating with British soldiers. 

"My Son the Man" by Sharon Olds

Suddenly his shoulders get a lot wider,
the way Houdini would expand his body
while people were putting him in chains. It seems
no time since I would help him to put on his sleeper,
guide his calves into the gold interior,
zip him up and toss him up and
catch his weight. I cannot imagine him
no longer a child, and I know I must get ready,
get over my fear of men now my son
is going to be one. This was not
what I had in mind when he pressed up through me like a
sealed trunk through the ice of the Hudson,
snapped the padlock, unsnaked the chains,
and appeared in my arms, what I had always wanted,
my son the baby. Now he looks at me
the way Houdini studied a box
to learn the way out, then smiled and let himself be manacled.  

"Bells for John Whiteside’s Daughter by John Crowe Ransom

There was such speed in her little body,
And such lightness in her footfall
It is no wonder her brown study
Astonishes us all.  

Her wars were bruited in our high window.
We looked among orchard trees and beyond
Where she took arms against her shadow,
Or harried unto the pond

The lazy geese, like a snow cloud
Dripping their snow on the green grass,
Tricking and stopping, sleepy and pround,
Who cried in goose, Alas,

For the tireless heart within the little
Lady with rod that made them rise
From their noon apple-dreams and scuttle
Goose-fashion under the skies!

But now go the bells, and we are ready,
In one house we are sternly stopped
To say we are vexed at her brown study,
Lying so primly propped.  

"This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding."

Audre Lorde, “Poetry is not a Luxury”

"Poetry keeps human beings open to the invisible, the hidden, the infinite unknown, always on the threshold of what is to come; at this point, which is both in time and outside of time, poetry becomes a bridge joining what a man was, what he is here and now, and what he will be tomorrow in an all-inclusive movement which goes beyond the mechanical, blind indifference of technical progress and embraces the changing unknown."

Adunis, “An Introduction to Arab Poetics”

Slim Cunning Hands by Walter de la Mare

Slim cunning hands at rest, and cozening eyes –
Under this stone one loved too wildly lies;
How false she was, no granite could declare;
Nor all the earth’s flowers, how fair.