I decide to share a photo online of my shirtless physique
with my arms covering my head like a contrapposto wraith.
My blurry skin is the color of marbled waves of church smoke,
and my limbs appear as if they were made for a straightjacket’s embrace.
A stranger tells me that my sketch-like photo reminds her of
Michelangelo’s unfinished prisoners/slaves. Maybe she sees a
gray consciousness waiting to be freed from a cave of flesh
like a swollen tongue swallowed inside a throat. You recently saw
a different photo of mine and said Sometimes I forget you don’t know
how beautiful you are.
Maybe that’s why I make all my photos
as colorless as light in the dirty fist of a lifer. I’m all silhouettes
and manipulation. You once told me how when you were a young girl,
your photo was taken at school without anyone asking permission.
And when the flash exploded, you got glass in your eye and forehead.
Like you, I struggle to look into the eye of any camera. And jigsaw bits
of me are easier to reveal. I used to feel hideous because of my
asymmetrical jawline, even though I have a face that some partners
would have trouble humiliating. I once woke up on the bathroom
floor after passing out and slamming my head on the off-white tiles.
As I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw three red streaks like
tribal paint across my face. I called the doctors and as I listened
to the staticky on-hold music with my phone to my ear, I grabbed
my DSLR camera and took photos of the blood leaking from the wound
above my left eyebrow. And I imagined I was a boxer in need of a cut-man.
Then I imagined a different kind of animal breathing inside my neck.

Anuel Rodriguez is a Mexican-American poet living in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cincinnati ReviewGlass: A Journal of PoetryPANKdecomPBlackbird, and elsewhere.