How can I tell you I’ve been
stealing. Stole from you.
Hid memories in my skin
of what we did, we do.

Your mouth, my sibling mouth
were printing histories
of children without milk,
predictions of a drought

and long winters in exile—
my poems all the heat, my smile
a code for hurt, a lie
I told you, learning how to spy.

How can I tell you I’ve been
spying. Looked at you
as you lay sleeping, blue
jacket by my bed, sin

our dead religion—there’s no sin
but shame, shame, for shame
I touched you; from your skin
I stole my photo, papers, name.



(From Housework, copyright © 1975 by Joan Larkin. Published by Out & Out Books, Brooklyn, New York. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any medium, print or electronic, without the author’s written permission, except for brief quotations in reviews.)