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Copyright © 2011

Lindsay Miller

The Adventures

of Starfish Girl



Grime-necked man on the bus demands a smile.

I hand it to him. Lipstick stains my palm.

Every part of me from earlobes to entrails

can be removed without pain and grow back.

I do not bleed, I do not make a sound.


The first time a nine-year-old boy

tried to hold my hand behind the swingset

I pulled away too fast. The bone jutted,

white in the horror of his staring eyes.

I did not cry out. My voice

lived in my detached fingers, grasping still,

burrowing in his gentle skin.

One of those science class flower videos

blooming at maximum acceleration

was happening at the end of my wrist.

The boy wept. I tingled

with newly circulating blood.


That night, before a dirty bathroom mirror,

I practiced dismemberment.

Eyelashes and hair first. Not even a twinge.

The smooth caverns ungored beneath fingernails.

Fingers next, snapped

like biting through stale bread.

Bone is more forgiving than you think.

There are so many kinds of sockets

in the human body. Empty, they snarl with hunger.

I watched them refill, slow as swamps.

My teeth did not grow back straighter.

My eyes did not turn blue.

My arms were shaped just the same.


I burned my amputations in the sink.

The stink swallowed me.


The day of my first period, I cried with relief

to know there was blood inside me.

My cunt a tarnished but holy chalice,

transubstantiating flesh into flesh.

It is one of the only parts

I’ve never lost, misplaced, torn out:

more skeleton than my skeleton,

the dark thread that binds myself to me.


I have dissected myself ruthlessly

(unwrapped skin like a gift,

minced organs on my kitchen counter,

severed limbs to see the tendons wriggle),

and here is what I’ve found:

I am a body made of tissues made of cells.

I am biological as anything else breathing.

I am not stronger or faster, I do not

reflect bullets. I cannot leap as high as some spiders.

I believe I can be killed. My only gift

is of escaping capture: savagely,

by gnawing off the trapped limb like a bear.

This has been necessary four times.


Some days I stay inside, afraid of what

I might leave behind me on the sidewalk

or tangled in rosebushes, afraid

of some wild dog scenting my skin, tracking me,

afraid of the sound of digging in my backyard.


Other days I have lovers, their faces

mass-produced, interchangeable.

They hold me like a rag doll, careless

of my loose stitches. They know my secret.

I tell them quietly, staring into my wine.

Or sighing, thrusting, a twist

in the wrong direction, a harder gasp.

One of them keeps my fingers in a glass vase,

arranged like lilies: a few seashells,

smooth blue rocks. They never wilt.


The newest one (marbles for eyes,

chain-saw jawbone) laughs like broken wind chimes,

says, If I’m ever stranded on a desert island

I hope it’s with you. I’d never

have to worry about starving.

All night I stumble awake

dreaming woodsmoke—my skin

marinating in the sweat of his hands,

scarecrow fingers in the meat

of my belly, checking for tenderness—

wondering if I would even feel his teeth.