By Sara Biggs Chaney

The girl said: I am not skin,
but sackcloth.

She said: I am not spoke,
but symphony.

My rib bones, how they burn
for the Son.

For Him, I will suffer
this harmonic ache–

I will pin my maiden head,
a moth wing,

I will bear the shames
of a thousand men,

I will wear the hands
of a healer.

Today’s poem was originally published in Thrush and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Sara Biggs Chaney received her Ph.D. in English in 2008 and currently teaches first-year and upper-level writing in Dartmouth’s Institute for Writing and Rhetoric. Her most recent chapbook, Ann Coulter’s Letter to the Young Poets, was released from dancing girl press in November, 2014. Sara’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in RHINO, Sugar House Review, [PANK], Juked, and elsewhere. You can catch up with Sara at

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem, like the famous Walt Whitman quote, contains multitudes. Relaying an epic history in a few swift couplets, the interplay between referentiality and alliteration is as precise as it appears effortless. Discreet moments—brilliant vignettes—are carefully pieced together to reveal the story of a life: “The girl said: I am not skin, / but sackcloth;” “I will bear the shames / of a thousand men, // I will wear the hands / of a healer.” As readers, we are as transported by the world of the poem as we are transformed.

Want more from Sara Biggs Chaney?
“St. Barbara, Locked Away” in Atticus Review
“St. Theodora in the Brothel” in Tinderbox Poetry