"The Most Careless Girl in the Class Had the Most Exquisite Body"

"The Most Careless Girl in the Class Had the Most Exquisite Body"

"The Most Careless Girl in the Class Had the Most Exquisite Body"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
July 21 2009 6:47 AM

"The Most Careless Girl in the Class Had the Most Exquisite Body"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Erica Ehrenberg read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.
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The most careless girl in the class had the most exquisite body,
the constant proximity of which exhausted us,
not least because her awkwardness,
so unlike ours, manifested itself as a license
to kick off all consciousness of her limbs
like a branch one smacks out of one's face
in the woods in an act of defiance, almost contempt,
whose ironic outcome was the deepest inhabitation
of flesh I have ever seen.  It was through her body
that I wanted to pass close to the bodies of the boys.
She would take me home with her and all but throw me
into the dark dynamics of her empty-seeming household,
which I felt to be hung with heavily stitched draperies
that concealed not only the rooms but the beings inside.
She took me there and spun me into her weird intimacy
in which my own self-consciousness was a pestering
insect— stupid, negligible.  She would speak to people, to men,
to anyone in the streets and walk just as quickly off,
implicating me in the desire she aroused,
her uncontainability streaking through me a blazing
trail of lights from high in the whitest part of my head
down into my lungs, my entrails,
the part of me that wasn't breathing.

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Erica Ehrenberg was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., last winter and will be a Stegner fellow in poetry at Stanford University this fall.