The National Poetry Review

Karen Schubert

THE CAUTIONS

The campus rec center is mostly empty,
staff chatty before the quiet winter break

ends. My first time in the gym
I change into sweats in a tight stall,

eavesdrop on two women who come in
from swim class talking about chlorination.

One’s skin was so bad last vacation—she finally
realized it was the water. I grab my coat,

boots, bag, step out to ask about lockers.
The woman sitting on the bench is naked

from the waist up, so I quickly check my hair
in the mirror. She says pink locks are for staff,

but she never bothers. She looks into my reflected
eyes, above her round, wrinkled shoulders, freckled

chest with a single breast dipping down.
She pulls on a pant leg. Anyway, she says, I leave

my purse in the office, so there’s not anything valuable
to take
. The other woman nods, says it’s a safe

campus. I’ve never lost anything, she says.


KAREN SCHUBERT’s recent chapbooks are Black Sand Beach (Kattywompus Press) and I Left My Wings on a Chair (Kent State Press), selected by Kathleen Flenniken for a Wick Poetry Center Chapbook Prize. Her poems and interviews appear or are forthcoming in Apple Valley Review; Ella @ 100, an Ella Fitzgerald tribute anthology; Tree Life, Diode, and Best American Poetry Blog. She is a 2017 artist-in-residence at the Vermont Studio Center and a founding director of Lit Youngstown.

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