Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Agnostic Wandering
<the brain is a hulled walnut>

God was a horizon
Not-God was another
They said “Don’t sex
or fuck,” they said
“Here’s a ring for Jesus.”

So I jesused. I sang
I stilled my hips, smoothed
the churn when I walked
that wrung butter into being
somewhere in my jeans

I did believe. I did. I sang
I hallelujahed. I wore out
the knees and hems of skirts
and kept my hands mostly
to myself, joined missionary

They kept me at home
They kept me in a room
with electrified standards
with soap and a wooden spoon
snapped on my ass more than once

When I got out I had to learn
how to dance, how to dance
with my tongue. Guilt was easy
to shake off for Depeche Mode
finally: whispers in ear canals

Leather jacket smells, Harley growls
Whiskey and back rooms. Easy.
The blues made it easier—that mix
of sex and sorrow, that American
duende of biscuit pepper honey lust

But it wasn’t the open space I craved
and sex can be just another bare room
Something else is out there, I smell it
I smell it thunderous, ozone tang
What’s the inverse of a prayer?

I have an IUD and study IEDs
I know how we disintegrate
before war, during, after, and
In not-war, too. I know the splatter
against the desert or the birth canal

I know the composure of the sterile field
that bears up under salt and says “not me”
I will not kill. I will not bear a bloody life.
I will open my palms. Ruler-slap or shake them
Do what you want. You can’t reach me

No matter how you baptize or water board
Force me, and I’ll testify that you still can’t
go deep enough. I can be way down far.
I am a snail voice, a flaunted dust—
This is all there is and ever will be

This body. These many-lined hands
calloused. That horizon, flat as a sheet
laid over a corpse. That thunder-beat
under. That dew. That hump of morning.
That lovely-toothed piano in the corner.  

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