Winter 2004

Kirsten Ratza


Kirsten Ratza Kirsten Ratza is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan's M.F.A. program. Her poetry has appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, GoodFoot, and POEM, and is forthcoming in North American Review and Third Coast. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.
Idiopathic    Click to hear in real audio

Thirteen. Hatched from foam-
lined plastic that guided the vine

of my spinal cord towards five o'clock
dinner and an hour-long breath.

The other minutes were bathed in sweat,
heat-rash and eczema like blusher

for breasts. Came with a starter package
of undershirts and a book

about a girl curved worse. Its cover
announced another work, tender story

of a cheerleader and her amputated foot.  
I had lost nothing, just grew a little off-

center.  At night I learned sleeping
is a skill, and best positions were bent

knees, arcs to left, shifted organs. Woman
was not a word I yet had said, and now

I latched behind the back, was strapped
into myself. I seemed to wear a coat's

hang-tag: Made of genuine leather.  

Yet, that cast did smooth my stomach,
enlarge hips as if for child-birth, earn itself

a wardrobe and seamstress for the holes
it bore in clothing. I wonder now myself�

what must it have been like
to tap the body as if it were a door?

To live geometry, decreasing obtuse
angles to accommodate lungs, diaphragm?

Like my parents, who mourned their girl's
girlhood, did I marvel at the science? I admit

to open-mouthed fascination when
the plasterer made a mask of me,  

then formed a brace from its mold.
I almost forgot how I clapped

my hands at first sight of leather loops,
rubbed the steel of hook and eye,

whispered in a simple voice�
I must give it a name.




Kirsten Ratza: Poetry
Copyright © 2004 The Cortland Review Issue 25The Cortland Review