Claudine R. Moreau

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He did research —
at the grocery store he took notes
on how nipples surface
in the freezer aisle.
On the subway, he estimated cup sizes.
He memorized the parabolic curves
they carved out in space.
He mapped the topography of each pair.
His sketchbooks revealed a cartographer’s
love of the alpine peaks, the gulleys,
the slow rolling hills of breasts.
He taught me how an artist
sees color in skin—
the hidden arcs of green and cerulean blue
in the tender sags of stretch marks,
the dioxazine purple and zinc white
that ring the areola,
the fields of cadmium orange
flanked with dots of hansa yellow
near the hollow of the arm,
the burnt umber shadow
at the curved
cusp of the breast.
Later it came, that sickness,
tore at my left breast,
turpentine lifting layer upon layer,
touch after touch removed,
down to my first set of kisses
on each asymmetrical nipple
in the back of his Camaro
on a dirt road
on a humid August night
with sweat trickling like small creeks
through the beer bottle-littered
canals of our spines.
But, he loved me for my radioactive
hair that pulled out in his hands,
my tubes and my pus, the quiet rip
of hospital tape pulling up skin,
and he dragged his finger across,
my dissected plateau—
quinacridone rose, ochre, titanium white,
he whispered. We laughed hard
for no reason, examined closely
as fear dissolved out of the canvas,
a toxic solvent evaporating
in a well-ventilated room.

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a typo that became a literary publication


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