Emily Bowles | You see me, a woman flayed

Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how much it altered her person for the worse. — Jonathan Swift, A Tale of a Tub

They saw me,
a woman
flayed.

You will hardly believe how
I saw myself
when he treated me that way,
how much it altered
me
a person
her person
mine
for the worse.

I see you

watching
the spectacle of my body
as it’s rewritten
remarked
on
by them, after
I stood in front of them,
pilloried.

You read it rightly
(past and present tense sound the same,
and I mean it both ways).

Still I wonder, worry
about my legibility,
what you see when you read me.

Please read me,
even if my spine cracks under pressure
and I flinch when your eyes linger
too long over the letters like lesions
cut deep in my brain.

Emily BowlesEmily Bowles started her career as a visiting professor of English and Women’s Studies.  She published widely on Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, Henry Fielding, Frances Brooke, and Eliza Lucas Pinckney before leaving academic work and turning to a career in as a writer. She also volunteers for her community’s domestic violence shelter, is a contributor to the Library Journal and Women Magazine, and has published poems based on her travel to Egypt with her now ex-husband, her childhood eating disorder, and her experiences of workplace sexism. Contact her at emilybowles160@gmail.com

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