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Between sapping limbs
of plum and bark
a child breaks
the skin of her hands.
Stopping the blood with sap,
she licks off her fingers what she thinks
will taste like honey.
It tastes like sick and bedtime
and she roars
on the other side of the window
sounds like war.
Here is what her nature did:
“It's easier for them to shoot you
if you're up in a tree,”
the father says,
“Never climb higher, keep low--
hide behind cars or big boulders, telephone booths.”
And the daughter. The daughter
taciturn by the advice,
the thought that someone
would try to kill her
is a thought--
I did not create--
I didn't create it—is a thought, I did not
create, it is a thought, I did not
thought to create, I did not create
is a thought I did not create.
A boy stuck his dick in her ass and then in her vagina.
A few days later her skin burned
and rose to a temperature of 105 degrees.
Sitting in the shower, waterfalls over her lips;
her fingers on her eyes;
her toes prune.
A towel to dry off:
The concerned mother forces a hairbrush through the daughter’s hair,
the daughter notices sitting wrapped in a towel, crossed-legged
on the mother’s bed. It hurts, but the mother is trying to help
the daughter look ready to go.
The daughter’s scalp, like clay, molds forward then backward.
Her eyebrows rise upward then down.
The corner of her lips tilt toward her ears then frown.
Knots gather at the end of her hair—little fish nets.
The concerned mother then buckles the daughter
into the passenger seat and drives to the hospital.
The night the daughter lays
in the hospital bed
with a narcotic in the IV
and the IV hooked into her arm,
the boy vomits onto his shoes
somewhere at a house party.
Make sure to wipe yourself from front to back.
Then, with big palm toward the beige ceiling
the concerned mother is motioned to leave
the room. The daughter is asked:
Do you use drugs?
A deep breath after the response.
The concerned mother, after a cue from doctor,
sits back down in the hospital room
and says, I don’t know what you told them, but
these hospital files aren’t confidential.
The concerned mother says,
part of being young and uncommitted…
maybe I shouldn’t have left.
You’re still so hot.
It’s my right as your mother.
These files, they code you out of context.
Just watch what you tell them.
The concerned mother hasn’t eaten anything
the entire day the daughter lays in the hospital bed
with a narcotic in the IV
and the IV hooked into her arm.
Nurse brings a slice of carrot cake in a plastic container.
On top a taped note written in pen with big curly o’s
It terrifies me, to believe
in letting go,
the putrid smell
of the devil’s tongue flower hangs like fever
in planter against the sunlight
through the window.
In my life, I have seen many dead people
in my head
Paradise began in a plum tree and oak
tables gashed and gnarled from poker-night
knives mounted like stalagmites;
honey-colored sap pockets burst and crystallize
drip over rough bark;
roots burn water into leaves;
bark breathes out sap bubbles.
You know dust devils in the desert?
Those aren’t devils at all.
Those are ghosts, stomping their feet
to the beating drums, wailing
with their arms to the sun.
They dance in circles
with rings on their fingers,
chimes in their hair,
desert flowers on their hips.
Their hips of petals falling to the ground.
The sky becomes skeleton
with cup in hand
rattle the rib cage.
It’s time to let go.
To throw away not only flower
but planter, and window, and the sunlight behind it.
For fear some usual figure becomes whirlwind
ripping root from soil, beating
stomping desert graves.
oh, our graves.
Dust in our mouths
our tongues cleave
skin to skin.
Your heart, which becomes my heart.
We have fevered, before,
these moments of orgasm.
Pushing our raving hearts
as we end as puddles of water
reflecting smoke from some distant planet.
This is what kept us:
Our senses, a forceful rhythm
constant falling chests
steadying our breathing,
swallowing bile back
into our stomachs.
Your heart which becomes my heart.
Sheila McMullin curates the feminist and artist resource website, MoonSpit Poetry, where a list of her publications can also be found. She is the Website Assistant for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts where she writes the column “Spotlight On!” celebrating literary magazines that publish a diverse representation of writers. She is a Contributing Editor for ROAR Magazine. Her poetry collection, Like Water, has received notable attention from Ahsahta Press, New Delta Review, and Black Lawrence Press chapbook competitions. She works as an after-school creative writing and college prep instructor, and volunteers at her local animal rescue. She holds her M.F.A. from George Mason University.
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