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The seam of my Snoopy PJs brushed between my thighs

and I flushed awake. My sister snoring in the bunk above.

Short fingers stirred playground mud into cake batter—slow

to separate the liquid maw of pleasure from curiosity,

it would be years before phosphenes bloomed

into badly dressed boys with tongue-moistened lips.

I was done when my mother walked in.

She picked up the discarded socks, capped the magic

markers, dropped them back into the soup can

painted with pink stars and glitter hearts

When she bent over for a goodnight kiss she said,

Your fingers stink, and told me to go wash them.

I stood at the sink, my scent dissolving into soap—

how badly I began to want in front of the mirror;

what lifted my little life like a bloodhound’s ears

to the promise of approaching bodies:

my mother’s Carmex kiss I didn’t wipe away,

the waxy stain shining on my forehead.


Lexi Pelle was the winner of the 2022 Jack McCarthy Book prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, Ninth Letter, One Art, Sucarnochee Review, and Zenaida. Her debut book, Let Go With The Lights On, will be released in May.

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