Shannon K. Winston


Picture this:
me and my mother

on our hands and knees
tearing up an orange

shag carpet
in our old apartment.

Peeling back foam
and mold, we groped

our way to wood.
We’re fixing up the place,

my mother said,
but I was already dreaming

of Paris. Of the men
in Gustave Caillebotte’s

painting Les raboteurs de parquet.
Of how they hunched

over while sanding
a hardwood floor.

How I admired
their muscled backs,

their nimble exertion,
this whittling the body

down to its joints.
Do you only teach

your sons your trade?,
I whispered as if I, too,

were part of this scene,
just slightly off stage.

At my feet, wooden
shavings curled

like the tendrils
I tucked behind my ears.

Pushing earrings through
semi-closed holes,

I delighted
in drawing blood,

in feeling the sharp
inner workings

of my body,
of metal on skin.

In scraping back
the layers, in letting

each ligament burn.
Ligament, from ligare:

to bind, to tie.
To hold captive,

yes, that too,
but also to cohere.

Shannon K. Winston

has contributed to Dialogist, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and The Los Angeles Review, among other journals. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart prize and for inclusion in the Best of the Net anthology. She earned her MFA at Warren Wilson College and currently teaches in Princeton University’s writing program.