"Clumsy, Sexy, Soft" by Ciara Shuttleworth

Clumsy, Sexy, Soft %2FMarta Huo.jpg

Clumsy, Sexy, Soft

At thirty-two, it is my first
slip. I’m unaccustomed to the way my dress

slides across it so smoothly, how it skims my skin like lips.
In my head, Nana says, the only thing worse

than a bra strap showing
is a dirty bra strap showing
, so I tug the sleeve’s slender ruffle,

cross my arms over hardened nipples. What she meant
was that kind of woman is all flash and no class,

and I am again fourteen, embarrassed
in a sports bra. I’d never thought to buy a bra

with skinny, sexy straps to let fall seductively just below the sleeve,
but suddenly I envied

every slender shoulder adorned
with a skinny strap, so I bought one to practice,

Monroe-style, in the mirror. Even Nana loved Marilyn,
who always seemed to have

a bra strap showing. I wonder if, at fourteen,
she learned seduction by imitating the cool caress

of her first slip, sharp hips and tiny tits jutting for something
softer. Nana whispers, Marilyn didn’t care who knew

she thought she was sexy
, nearly an apology,
so I give in to the glide of something slick

against my skin,
nipples puckering for the next silk kiss,

and the slip’s strap on my shoulder — evidence,
provocateur, sexy.

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Ciara Shuttleworth

Ciara Shuttleworth’s publications include Confrontation, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The New Yorker, North American Review, Ploughshares, and The Southern Review. Her poetry chapbook, Night Holds Its Own, is out with Blue Horse Press. More info can be found at www.ciarashuttleworth.com.

Photo Credit: Marta Huo