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Rio Cortez

Self Portrait in a Tanning Bed

It’s February & I am the only black
girl at Future Tan Tanning
Salon I laugh when I enter
my private room & see an African
mask above the clothes racks I am
getting tired of irony naked
climbing onto the plexiglass &
hearing it creak I wonder like any
other moment alone what if I die
like this what if the plastic gives
& I’m burned by two dozen ultra
violet glass rods I gently close
the canopy of the Suncapsule Super
Cyclone 350 wrapped in its purple
cylinders of light I can see myself
reflected back with tiny goggles at first
I think I look like a reverse coon with huge
black eyes but I like the way I look
darker & like a time-traveler how
my breasts must sometimes appear
like this to my lover I think I’m sad
or something worry how much time
has passed since I’ve been here


Rio Cortez lives in New York City. She is a Pushcart nominee and graduate of the MFA program at NYU. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem and Canto Mundo Foundations. She was a recipient of the Sarah Lawrence College Lucy Grealy Prize in Poetry and the 2012 Poets & Writers Amy Award. Other poems can be found at Prairie Schooner, Sugar House Review, Huizache Magazine, Chrorus: A Mixtape, and elsewhere.


See full list of 2015 Emerging Poets Fellows