Carnegie Mellon University

"Florence Beggar" by Emily Charleson

Third Place for College Poetry

Marvel at marble:
David was born in this heat
by God’s hands.
His body for battle is unshelled;
except for a coat of birds,
he is naked.

Leaping from his shoulder, a bird
lands a few hands
away, searching the naked
streets for a marble
of crumbs. Heated,
he shells

his head in a hole, sheltered.
I understand the bird’s
hatred of heat
and I call to him, bread in hand,
my laughter like marbles—
pure and naked.

I see a beggar with naked
hands, copper like coins.
Her unshelled
breasts, round like marbles,
wobble as she washes like a bird,
cupping water in her hands
to cool from the heat.

Color drains from her nude
lips and she turns pink as shells
as she sees me. I am perfect marble
to her, a powerful bird,
and in my hands
I clutch a water bottle heated

by her sun. I am heated,
angry at myself, the naked
truth: these are soft hands
and hers are rough as shells.
She does not know I laugh at the bird,
not her, and like a marble,

she rolls into herself. Heat marbleizes this:
her naked face, scared as a bird,
her hands shell-clamp a sweaty rag.

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