Kayla Wheeler

Heartbreak: A Striptease in Reverse




Start by putting your stilettos back on.

It will feel awkward to begin this way, but remember

they were the last to come off. If you are worried about

waking him with their skinny-heeled clack, don’t be a coward.

These are your shoes and you’re putting them on and you’re leaving.

Tell yourself. Say it out loud if you have to. Pretend you are telling him

instead, that you don’t need to hear it as much as he does.

Find your lace panties. Pull them sloppily and fast

over your thighs (not to be confused with the way he used to yank them off)

like you would if forever was possible, if you spent enough time together

to become careless and messy and fatefully routine.

Try to think of insignificant things: charmeuse, buttons, your belt.

Count the number of nails in the floorboards beneath your feet.

If this reminds you of naming the freckles on his back, start over.

Consider the weather or calling your mom, not the first time

he ran an electric hand down the inside of your jeans, the flock of doves

that flew from your chest, how you knew nothing

of their existence until he released them.

Find your bustier. Clasp it with one hand while covering your breasts

with the other, as if changing costumes backstage between acts.

Feel the underwire poke at your flesh, how it nearly draws blood,

but doesn’t. Remember, you are still a showgirl.

Now is not the time for feelings or to test your waterproof mascara.

When you see your black skirt and blouse strewn across the floor,

do not imagine how they came to look so uncared for,

the thick air of lust dissipating through the ceiling

to the next floor’s apartment. Grab them with both hands.

Slip inside, skirt first, then top. Do not feel your body

or his heat leaving it. Say it will be warmer this way.

It will be warmer this way. Over and over again. Tell yourself.

Find the door. Maintain eye contact. Walk to it without swinging

your hips. Instead, honor how they hold you,

steady & upright.




Kayla Wheeler is a nurse and writer from New Hampshire. Her work has table danced at FreezeRay, Wicked Alice, The Orange Room Review, and We Will Be Shelter, an upcoming anthology from Write Bloody Publishing. She represented Slam Free Or Die at the 2013 National Poetry Slam. Follow her @KaylaSlashHope