When I asked the woman at the hostel
whether I’d be allowed in the most famous onsen
in town with a tampon in, we shared
the sudden and brief sisterhood of shame,
her whispers embarrassed and giggling
as she shooed away the male owner
to protect me. But after I thanked her
for telling me against the rules,
I defied her, cut the string short so nobody
could see, and as she drove us in her Subaru
to the bathhouse, I avoided her eyes, trusting
she wouldn’t mention it, out of propriety
more than solidarity with me. Water so hot
I couldn’t stay in long, draped arms and legs
over the stone to breathe the cool night air.
My body, anywhere, can desecrate.
I tried to be your sister, but instead I take
from the sacred, leaving nothing
that I’ve touched decent.
Emily Banks is a doctoral candidate and poetry lecturer at Emory University. She holds an MFA from the University of Maryland and a BA from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including Cimarron Review, storySouth, Free State Review, Yemassee, and Pembroke Magazine. Her first collection, Mother Water, is forthcoming from Lynx House Press.