In Praise of the Exoskeleton

by Sara Ryan


the ability to stay entirely untouched.
unscavenged. unhaunted by the other

bodies inside your own. once, pavement,
split me right down the middle. I learned

my blood and its spread. the lengths
my skin went to in its healing. the way I lost

and lost and came back—bright. pink. new.
when men tell me what to think of my body,

I pull my bones around me like a slick jacket
of white. harder this way. rigid and resistant.

ready for rocks. there are mechanics to this
method. to becoming a shell and staying soft

underneath. there’s failure, too. in the scales
I develop in direct sunlight. in the cracks

that let the light in. the superglue that won’t hold
me. the doctor told me I will never grow taller

and I said, that’s fine, people always see me
as taller than I am. I am elastic energy.

when you’re not looking, I am a swarm of locusts.
when you touch me, it sounds like thunder.

Sara Ryan is a graduating MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University and an associate poetry editor for Passages North. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from The Rumpus, Sonora Review, Hunger Mountain, Yemassee, Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, and others. Her chapbook, Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned, is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press. Next fall, she will be attending Texas Tech University to pursue her PhD.