This selection, chosen by guest editor Tierney Bailey, is from Brown Girl Chromatography by Anuradha Bhowmik, released by University of Pittsburgh Press in 2022.
content warning for sexual assault of a minor
1) I stripped down Barbie dolls before the age of five. I traced the lace & contoured cups in Kmart’s lingerie racks as Ma & Baba walked ahead towards the school uniforms.
2) While the skinny bitches in middle school remained flat-chested, my boobs arrived without prior notice. Big boobs don’t count if you’re fat said the skinny bitches & their white boy counterparts.
3) I have an aversion for the word “tits” & I’ll never use it to refer to boobs. The monosyllabic term holds an infantile association inside my mouth.
4) Ma & Baba observed & informed me that my breasts had emerged asymmetrically. They took me to a pediatrician with frizzled white hair. I saw him for the first & last time. The middle-aged doctor wanted to check for pubic hair growth on my nine year-old body. He spread my labia without gloves. I cried. Your parents are standing right here he barked. I’ll never understand why Ma & Baba didn’t intervene.
5) My twenties required a necessary separation from underwire. Most clothes couldn’t contain me without popping buttons & gaping holes.
6) When Erin Heatherton was still my type, I dreamed of being a Victoria’s Secret model. Brown bitches never belonged in a lingerie catalog. But in my teenaged imagination, I was a skinny bitch wearing a lace bustier & G-string, walking the runway in a garter belt & stilettos.
7) I can free the hooks from the eyelets & un-wish this body. But the marionette strings will always tug me back into place.
Anuradha Bhowmik is a Bangladeshi-American poet and writer from South Jersey. She is the 2021 winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for her first collection Brown Girl Chromatography (Pitt Poetry Series, 2022). Bhowmik is a Kundiman Fellow and a 2018 AWP Intro Journals Project Winner in Poetry. She lives in Philadelphia.
Tierney Bailey is a Libra, a lover of science fiction and poetry, and is a dice-collecting gremlin. Currently, Tierney is Associate Poetry Editor with Sundress Publications, a copyeditor at Strange Horizons, Associate Editor with PodCastle, and a freelance graphic designer. She has earned a BA from the University of Indianapolis and a Masters Degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College.
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