“Ariana Nadia Nash’s Instructions for Preparing Your Skin is an exquisitely passionate first book. Mostly I am struck by the lyrical frankness of the poems, and how they sustain an uncanny purity and yet are totally down to earth.”
— Malena Mörling
“Instructions for Preparing Your Skin is a startling book in which so much is at stake. Love poems morph into hate poems into indifference poems then back again into deeper love poems. Nash’s stark raw material is transformed into verse as honest and clear as the mirrors in which we recognize ourselves. There is no way to prepare for these striking poems that strike against any temporary assuredness we may have about our bodies and each other. Instructions for Preparing Your Skin is candid, revelatory, and uncompromising in its vision.”
— Denise Duhamel, Judge, 2011 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry
Instructions for Preparing Your Skin can be purchased here.
by Ariana Nadia Nash
In the shoebox room she sits on the edge of his bed and slides her back to rest against his side. As she talks, her hands trace small galaxies. Silk skin distracts her as he touches her hand and she twists down to him, swizzling stick to rest on his shoulder. He wraps his arm around her; her hands dance his geography. Their legs double-decker sandwich. They dissolve into talking then touching. Talking. Touching. Sometimes not listening, she just watches the blueberry line on his lip. And she’s an ice cube thinking he doesn’t know her, thinking her touch could be a reed whip, and she puts her ear to his chest, listen to his heart beatbox.
Not when I’m sick, he says, pulling his blue-line lips away from her threatening pucker, throwing back shaggy hair. Biting lips into scarecrow line he shakes no. She figure-eights her legs around his legs, her fingers around his neck, slow, seducing. She goblets his chin, diving to drink. He pulls away. Her stomach coils. Fine. She squats beside her bag, shoveling herself from his floor into small compartments. She turns to see fingers reaching and she’s a magnet, kissing his shoulder for forgiveness. Then pulling away and back to the middle of the floor. She’s inside herself—shut music box—saying goodnight.
Where his sweet raw lips and tongue are, she can taste tart blueberry. They are lying, rooting into each other. His arm vines her waist, squeezing skin to skin. Her arm pursuing his, holding him holding her. When he inches his fingers towards her chest, she holds her breath until contact and exhales in a stutter. Silk moving slowly, pressure so slight she could scream.
Ariana Nadia Nash is the winner of the 2011 Philip Levine Prize in Poetry for her first book Instructions for Preparing Your Skin. Her chapbook, Our Blood Is Singing, is forthcoming from Damask Press. She is the recipient of a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize and a MacDowell Colony residency. Her work can be found in Rock & Sling, Main Street Rag, and The Mom Egg, among other journals.
See also: A History of Remembering, and Ariana’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.