After Viola Frey’s “Untitled (Backside Standing Nude With Extended Arm)”

by Rachel Neve-Midbar

Blackbird, no backside
or reside or step away—
back, no back but backside,
the naked back and yet still
blackbird or blackcat or
black shadow of her—selfhood,
her shame, perhaps
throwing on a black dressing gown.
Perhaps slipping it off.
They say backside. Vashti,
they say, had a tail.
Take off your clothes, woman,
show my friends how I wear
my kink: how I wrap
myself in the droop of you,
how I take you, dip
my end into you
. Woman
with tail who, when commanded
must pretend shamelessness,
unfold her midnight wings.
So what is shame? Can we
name it? Overcome it? Not
to undress in public,
a black shadow overcomes
me. Please don’t see
my naked ass. Stop sending
me away so you can see my tail,
my crawl, my hot cheeks,
my rumpled sheets, my
phobias of appearing visible
to others. What does it help, then,
that flashed image—Adam—Eve
their arms snaked across their
private parts, fleeing?

Poet and essayist Rachel Neve-Midbar’s collection Salaam of Birds won the 2018 Patricia Bibby First Book Award and was published by Tebot Bach in 2020. She is also the author of the chapbook, What the Light Reveals (Tebot Bach, 2014, winner of The Clockwork Prize). Rachel’s work has appeared in Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, Grist and Georgia Review as well as other publications and anthologies. Her awards include the Crab Orchard Review Richard Peterson Prize, the Passenger Poetry Prize and nominations for The Pushcart Prize. Rachel is a current  PhD candidate at The University of Southern California where her research concerns menstruation in contemporary poetry. She is also editor of Stained: an anthology of writing about menstruation for the AuntFlo2020 Project.


Photography by: Vignesh Kumar R B