Thirteen by Tara A. Elliott

Plunging blade into white water,
     my older cousin leaves girlhood 

in the smooth wake
    of creamless strokes. 

Later, I creak the vanity
    open, knock over bottles and jars     

and hunt on Barbie-like tiptoes
    for the can of Barbasol. I fill the bath

with water so hot it turns bathroom
    to cloud, perch

along the lip of the tub—
    my father’s razor

heavy with the weight
    of adolescent want. I will not

ask anyone how—just
    lather, drag the blade, and slice

shin into a strip so thin
    skin dangles like a dead worm.

Whiter than bone, the wound
    takes a full minute before

panic seeps
    to the surface. Blood
ribbons into bathwater,
    then blooms.

Tara A. Elliott’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Ninth Letter, Cumberland River Review, Cimarron Review, and Birmingham Poetry Review, among others. An award-winning poet and educator, she serves as Executive Director of the Eastern Shore Writers Association (ESWA) and chair of the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. A former student of Lucille Clifton, she’s been awarded numerous grants and honors, including the Christine D. Sarbanes Award from MD Humanities, the Light of Literacy Award from Wicomico County Public Libraries, and Maryland State Arts Council’s Independent Artist Award.