My father’s turn for Sundayschool unearthed
In tender minds the same way as a newborn
Full-breath, how fear could molt a ripened fruit
for squeezing like a heart to taint to taste to rule
And juice, mingled with the old pages splayed
My father’s gospel was beating drums.
To scare the devil with hot fruit fire and
His phobias, with stone bodies flexed
And I did, I smelled citrus in the cemetery.
Strung like beads of light amidst the graves
We did not wake the rocks with laughter
They’d think our feet were thunder.

The thinking sound of a wooden spoon in the pot
And the weak light in the living room we
All sat on the purple rug our raw bare legs
We traders and negotiators huddled, handling
Grimy playing cards like runes each others’
Secret-Secreted-Sacred wishes for each other
Standed on trees with purpose
And speaking ourselves bigger and
Beautiful-er with importance
In our network’d vines of a beautiful mind
Worth, necessary, serious, our lives depended,
Listen, I’m serious. My younger brother
Delivered a monologue about galaxies.
Respectfully I injected magic into it with
Two precious careful words settled then
decided them we, lulled
By nodding heads
We all headed out after supper we
Messy-headed dirty-handed brimming
Went away
For who knows a century
Or the length of a new sun a
Whole bible from a
Different universe’s world.

a broken ballad of sweet cherry wounds and where they come from

 

When it’s time to undress, I hook my lip like a curtain

pulled back, and it’s what you’d expect.

A grimy finger digging a gemstone ulcer, the sore utterance

that sat salted and festering just inside my cheek for 2 years.

I bite it when I speak, fall asleep to its pulsing ache

and wake up with a lolling head full of seawater,

but I do not bleed.

 

I did bleed from the knee

when I was 14 and fell from my bike,

watched the glittering cherry-pie opening in my skin

as it stitched itself hair by hair together before my father

saw. Before he could find out I zoomed to the elementary school

down the road to meet on the tracks with a boy from second grade

who I’d converted to Christianity.

 

A tiny backpack-bible had sat on my desk like a brick

and seeped stone juice, I recall crisply how my mouth watered

at the gold-leaf paper, wafting the same smells as cherry wounds

I’d forced myself not to drink though I ached to:

I’d like to rend my cracked lips and suck their supple

blistering sin from my skin like a mother lioness.

I’d like to nurse the fruit-rot dessert into ingrown fruition.

 

If I hadn’t eaten my bible, maybe I’d have blossomed

In yellow explosions like the honeysuckle I pointed out to you

along the railroad tracks, maybe my father’s face wouldn’t

have contorted like rotted vines, maybe he’d not have

retreated underground glistening invisibly among

the charred grubs. When they saw my wounds

my family receded like singed frayed

hairs dragged on the dampened sidewalk like

a leash without a dog but the biting under-earth smell

still there, trapped in my own hair, smearing me

across the flat clouded years.

 

Maybe if they’d known that when it bubbles, my cherried palm

crowns nuggets of gold which I eat to glow. Little do they know

I am one of those goldleaves, the rotted tar sugar of cherry

Potholes in the road, the unfurling fresh hot truths from

Broken skin, the chugging of the railroad which

Ticks out the lifecycles of honeysuckle blooms that

Rattle as no train passes.

 

I remember clearly they’d rattle quietly without dropping,

underbrush lilting against the heaven-bound train

towards a sweet Jesus future of endless blood.

crisply speaking stories which taste like distinct copper

filaments found in the body, in the tracks beneath the train,

the human brain, and the innocent glistening wound from

elementary school when time stopped under the sun to

inscribe a girl in god-history

in the neighborhood’s very veins.  

 

So here, I am naked now; this is my body,

My blood and my chugging seawater head

On repeat underneath the empty sidewalk

of my old town, a broken bicycle leaning

in the rain like a rusted shut music-box

streaming copper in silent refrains.

Meticulous Landscaping: A Sonnet*

Here in the passenger side lie Wendy’s bags crumpled by boots
The gentle pungent mulch compacts beneath each nail
Picking at the leather seats to stroke the tattered brail
And decode Dad’s lesson of the day like stringed stray roots:
Roots you tossed mulch over, the mornings of summer through July.
Disembarking the diesel F450 with silver smokestacks,
You’re mapping on your hands the clay-dried, thorn-bruised cracks
Wiping the Wendy’s grease on your sister’s off-brand “Nike” slacks
Step out into the cicada-thick air where, like Wendy’s, you fry.
You let the grass prick your bare calves and adjust in the sticky bed
Wiping soil across your forehead, swatting away flying things
And quietly recoiling from the grubs unearthed as dad sings,
Something he beat-boxed under his breath about marriage and rings-
Wash your hands in the cold hose-water until they turn Wendy-hair red.


*This poem was featured on the Cornell University Press blog for National Poetry Month, and can be found here under the following tags: civil rights, gender, national poetry month, poetry, women’s studies
https://sagehouse.blog/