Self-Portrait as a Female Body 

My body is a city strewn with a thousand pigeons, it
knows how to glint in sun, walks the halls with its breath
held thinking I’m safe—because of the holding inward.
Body that once placed an ocean inside each eye and behind
one lung there a closet door and a pile of sheets that spill their
threadbare clean into the dank smell of being left too long
alone. Body that backs itself inside a family that doesn’t
know how to pull the splinter of darkness from its tongue.
Body of longing through windows at night. Body woken
by dog barking downstairs to be let out at 2am or 3, when
the body is still young, its hair long, its parents asleep in
the same bed, parents folding into the body with their quilt
of days—these were their days and this body was their
witness. Body not chosen for the self to live in but, these
windows these. These living people beside the body it learns
to love as a stranger becoming less strange daily. Body hides
in the attic from a mother turned cold to the touch, or body
was told to cough it up, as the devil lives in the body, each
body, as though the devil looks out from and lives in each,
as if the body’s will can one day cure the body of its emptiness.
Body that tires of getting down on hands and knees, tires
of the fragrance of burning olive oil, body doused in flame,
inside the body is holding a blade of grass. How it bends.
How it knows the taste without taking it on the tongue.


Ösel Jessica Plante’s poetry, and flash fiction, has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2017, Best Small Fictions 2016, Adroit, Blackbird, Passages North and others. She won the 2018 Meridian Editors’ Prize in Poetry, was an honorable mention in the 2018 Gulf Coast Prize for Poetry, a finalist for the 2017 Meridian Editors’ Prize and a finalist for the 2017 Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize at Passages North, among other recognitions. In 2017 she was a Fellow at the Vermont Studio Center. She received an MFA from UNC-Greensboro and is pursuing a PhD in Poetry at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL where she also teaches creative writing. More about her work can be found at