I practice the body illusion
rouged cheek and lined eye I
wage the battle against time a balance of
hydroxy acid and desperate hope.
Cream applied and reapplied gray plucked out,
covered. Under-wire lifting up what wants to be down,
tight jeans holding in what wants to let go.

I invert, insert, convert, meditate but
gravity pulls the breasts toward the
knees the butt toward the heels the chin toward
the end of life. The ears failing to hear,
the eyes failing to focus, the hands trembling.

The skin finally letting go, loosening itself
opening wider and wider, curling back on itself
exposing its underside, its full compliment of living,
its etchings and weak spots.

I grip the railing and pull.
The body follows slowly,
hand over hand, cell over cell,
cracked illusion ascending the long stairs.

Rebecca Cook
REBECCA COOK is a teacher of composition, ESL writing, and the humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She has new work forthcoming in Northwest Review. Her essay, "Soaping the Stream," published in the May 2002 issue of Northwest Review, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. E-mail