Empathy Muscle


“We tell the story every year”–Natasha Trethewey

By Natasha Oladokun

if a boulder fell on your sister’s
leg and pinned her down
you might notice    jagged
in your own body    the cut of bone
speared through tissue     wind pushed
out of you from knee to throat
blackish      bloom at the rock
though your own body remains wholly intact
        metaphors are violet not
for their color      but for their ease
royal flags staked through this very flesh
someone said     masks reveal
a face more than a face reveals itself
but when ghosts in sheets appear to me at night
not there and there as new moons
you tell me what I’m seeing
slit    eyeholes unblinking


Natasha Oladokun is a writer living in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in IMAGE JournalPleiadesThe Hollins Critic, Indie Film Minute, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Hollins University, and she currently works at The Virginia Quarterly Review.