Alyse Bensel

Three days into your marriage

my gums bled uncontrollably.
I leaned over the sink
watching pink turn red
and more red. I thought
the bone had begun to weep
through tissue, like when
I was fourteen and under
anesthesia, my mouth so small
the surgeon couldn’t cover up
the wound. I begged
my mother to peer into
my mouth with a flashlight.
She lied. No bone here.
Until I could see it for myself,
that platinum white meant
to be hidden by flesh. I was sick
for two weeks. I thought
that this is what I get
for having sex for hours
with a boyfriend soon leaving
for college. I wanted to believe
in punishment meted out by
anyone but me or my own body.
I blame it on the cake
I’ve been eating instead of meals,
like it’s my wedding and I have to
shove it down my throat
until its gone. I won’t wait
for an arbitrary year to pass.
I’ll finish the last piece.
Leave it to me. There’s no sin
I won’t pretend to repent for.


Alyse Bensel’s poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Zone 3, burntdistrict, New South, Bone Bouquet, and elsewhere. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks Not of Their Own Making (dancing girl press) and Shift (Plan B Press) and serves as the Book Reviews Editor at The Los Angeles Review. A PhD candidate in creative writing at the University of Kansas, she lives in Lawrence.