Janice Moore Fuller

Sex Education


The sculptor shows us her slides:

American Beauties,

giant breasts, profiled,

almost touching.

Petals widening like vaginas.

From a concrete wall, Needles

creeping like fingers.

Adam’s Fault,

a fissure in the earth,

large lobes inside.


Mother’s job was to introduce


easing it into speech.

She’d send me scurrying

to bring the loaves

she called pads, the sling-shot

contraption she called a belt,

elastic dangling like faulty wiring.

Menstruation cleaned out

the mother, made a safe

basket for baby. We never spoke

of how baby arrived

in its soft red bed.


Two dogs got stuck,

one riding the other piggyback

in my neighbor’s yard.

Later my father shut the door behind us.

Easy in the language

of railroad ties and derricks,

he faltered on ovaries and fallopian,

words more like constellations.

Words that could not name

what Greg showed me

at naptime from his cot,

the toy in his pants

soft and pink as Silly Putty.


Monday afternoon — I’m cranky,

thoughts bottled: window-winged moths,

Thomas Hardy’s dogs, phthalo blue

hula hoops, Francesca Woodman,

her phantom body dissipating

through frames that tangle her,

a suicide at twenty-one.

Downstairs the plumber bangs

the pipes, tool box rattling,

crunching the faucet

that won’t stop streaming.

I can barely hold this vibrator.

Humming, batteries loose, it starts to knock

like an engine filled with low octane.

Will my neighbors hear me,

shaking, singing radiance, radiance,

rushing toward that violet door?


After school in the fourth grade,

my babysitter typed dirty words

on mother’s Remington Rand,

made crank calls, pretending

to be a pretty girl who’d moved away.

Obese and friendless,

she’d phone a high school boy,

asking in her surest voice

if he remembered her, if she could

slip her tongue between his lips.

Bored, we’d comb the house for secrets:

Hiding behind the socks in my father’s

smallest drawer, a volume no bigger

than a chapbook, mint green,

staple bound. Inside, no words.

Only black and white photographs:

Two naked ladies on facing pages

like rooms in a foldaway doll house,

black-haired sisters pressed against each other

when the book closed.

One, grim-faced, on all fours,

mounted by a dog, a tall shepherd

like Rin Tin Tin. The other, smiling,

legs wide apart, like the limber girls

at recess. Opening her tunnel

like a tour guide, shining a flashlight

on the things that dangled.


I never skinny dipped

but my friend Brenda once stripped bare,

lowered herself into the Lamoille River.

She swears minnows found

her opening and swam inside,

their tiny fins a shudder so gentle.

My college friends gossiped about the vulva,

the vulva and other organs I can’t recall.

Over the years, I had to guess

their meanings, those sex words,

embarrassed to ask or check out a book.

Afraid there’d be pictures —

open-thighed women,

parts spilling out like giblets

I couldn’t push back inside.


My twin daughters loved

the Beaucatcher Tunnel.

Strapped side by side in car seats,

they’d see it coming,

that darkness bored

forever into granite.

They’d squeal, “Tunnel!”

snatch up their breath,

and lock hands in a single fist.

We’d keep the headlights off

the whole way through.