2018 Harold Taylor Prize

The Body

by Kimberly Reyes
 
 
you keep reading about this woman 
you don’t know
(Maybe you knew.)
back in j-school,
it was j-school so, 
really, 
details you should remember. 
this woman disappeared.
 
people (Some you know you know.) 
are memorializing 
and celebrating her work. 
they say she was smart, fearless,
always smiling.
 
divers found her head
today,
 
and suddenly you realize 
you didn’t know it was missing, 
you didn’t know what happened, 
you scrolled but, 
 
stopped to read a funny post 
about Project Runway.
thought about Heidi Klum  
how her nickname was “the body.” 
(You always thought that was weird 
Heidi Klum sold makeup, too, 
which required a face,
or at the very least, 
a smile
to attach to 
the body.)
 
(Tim Gunn is your hero.)
 
the name of the woman you (don’t) know is Kim, 
was Kim, 
you should have remembered another Kim 
in your cohort, but she’s not familiar. 
 
not even when you see 
her headshot 
in the email
for the memorial at your school. (There have been a few.)
 
she was maybe your age,
but strawberry blonde,
and when she took the photo, 
 
maybe there was a fan 
in the room (?)
or she’d just turned her head 
for the flash 
at exactly the right time, 
which is hard to do
‘cause she was engulfed by strands of orbiting 
amber flames 
crystallized, aglow. 
 
(You remember Madonna’s 
hair floated the same way in 
the Live to Tell video.)
 
(There was a Project Runway contestant
Stella, who’d pronounce “leather”
without the “r,”
which you didn’t pick up at first
‘cause you’re from New York,
but then you saw
how it was funny
how it became a joke
 
how people can be funny
without even trying
 
if being funny just means
people are laughing at you.)
 
(You’d watch Project Runway in bed 
with this man 
with blue and red snake tattoos, 
who also secretly loved Tim Gunn 
and Stella. 
he had a thick Boston accent that tickled 
as you’d both slowly coo “leatha” 
back at the screen. 
 
once, 
through vodka breath
he told you the only reason 
you were in his bed:
your body
 
he could take 
or leave 
your smile.)
 
(Snakeskin is leather,
turns out
turning out cattle
isn’t the only way,
could be any hide.
snakeskin can be expensive,
tends to cost more 
when there’s an ornamental 
head 
attached to the skin 
of what used to be 
a complete body.)
 
it took probably a month, or
more than months 
from what you could tell
from what people 
you vaguely knew 
were saying 
through curated clicks
(Round, yellow, faces,
a single tear.)
more than a month 
to figure out 
if it was an accident. 
 
you were just skimming 
supposed  
maybe she fell off the boat (?)
for a while, you thought 
it could have been negligence 
she could have been drinking 
partying, smiling on this boat 
when something bad happened.
(No one’s fault.)
 
(“Make it Work!” 
is what Tim Gunn would snap 
at contestants
and why he’s your hero.)
 
(Honestly people, try.)
 
turns out Kim was 
reporting 
about a man 
on his boat, 
the way you learned in j-school: 
studying a man 
in his natural habitat. 
 
one of the news stories 
you finally ingested 
said this man had fantasies 
about women’s heads 
mutilated torsos,
burnt bodies.
 
Kim was probably killed by this man. 
this man she probably didn’t know 
before she got on his submarine. 
(A sub, 
not the dreamboat you’d envisioned.) 
 
and you know 
you don’t know what happened, 
you scrolled but—
didn’t know the story at all.