Stephen Gibson: “Diane Arbus Photographs a Bowery Teen”




She cuts herself. She shows Arbus hieroglyphs
up and down both thighs below her raised skirt.
She says the first time was with her father’s razor.

Some look like Morse code; others, like starfish
(she says it’s obvious, they’re supposed to hurt);
some, like cuneiform writing from Mesopotamia.

She says this is for when she cut her wrists in half;
this, for getting clean—sometimes she’d wipe dirt
off the needle after it’d already been used by others.

She asks Arbus to promise that people won’t laugh
at her.



Stephen Gibson has published eight poetry collections, including Frida Kahlo in Fort Lauderdale (finalist, 2020 Able Muse Press book prize competition, forthcoming); Self-Portrait in a Door-Length Mirror (2017 Miller Williams Prize winner, University of Arkansas Press); The Garden of Earthly Delights Book of Ghazals (Texas Review Press); Rorschach Art Too (2014 Donald Justice Prize winner, Story Line Press; 2021, Story Line Press Legacy Title, Red Hen Press), Paradise (Miller Williams prize finalist, University of Arkansas Press), Frescoes (Lost Horse Press book prize), and Masaccio’s Expulsion (MARGIE/IntuiT House book prize).

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