After “Countess P—’s Advice for New Girls” by Natasha Trethewey

“See yourself through his eyes—
your neck stretched long and slender, your back
arched—the awkward poses he might capture
in stone…”

As a general rule of thumb, wait
for permission to come undone. Don’t think
you can just take your shoes off at the front door
or call your mother the moment
a man’s hand lingers too long at your back.

You will learn to say yes when he asks for too much.
You will learn to let him unlace your spine
one notch at a time because he cares for you;
he says so, and you must believe him.

You will learn to wear an empty stomach like a star,
each tumbling ache a strand of sapphires,
your gemstone navel bright with hunger.
He will feed you grapefruit, whiskey, three solid
meals of flattery to keep you full, and you will
learn to believe that, too.

Finally, when he gives you permission, if he does,
do so gently, like a dandelion releasing one pale
frond at a time. Don’t kick your shoes across the room,
wail into the phone, or binge on leftover potatoes and pie,
and for the love of God, don’t mess up your hair.