In your story
I am the harbinger of doom;
hardly named,
I am namely a naked body
in your room.
Or a ghost.
Or a sound drowned out by rain.
On your page I am made
no more than the sum
of my parts.
In each one of your retellings,
you rebuild the breasts,
but not the heart.
I mean, I envy your precision,
but I’d hardly call it art.

Two nuns in their habits
undress slowly, facing away from the cross.
They do not speak.
Every inch of their bodies belongs to God
— every wrinkle, every sag,
every mole.
They wonder, silently, how much of Him
they have consumed —
flesh to tongue, His blood wrung
as juice in their wanting mouths.
As old as they are, it never fails to surprise them
how much of faith requires consumption.
Maybe, standing in the dark,
it shouldn’t.
After all, they have been consumed completely.
After all, there is nothing left of them
— not even their bodies —
not even in the dark.

This is how to throw yourself
to the wolves.
First, render your body meat;
sweet venison
smiling.
Second, do not bite back,
or be alarmed at
how dark your blood is
against their teeth.
Third, kneel.
Let the bones break
like the sweet pop of pearls
coming undone.
Last,
remember, you are doe,
butchered brutal.
Remember, you are gift,
you are meat;
sweet venison
on their tongues
– eyes rolled back,
still smiling.

I gave my body away like a gift wrapped in newspaper
— impulsively —
wanting nothing more than to see your face at the moment of opening.
I’m sorry if I disappointed you.
If you expected my heart to be a Hallmark card rendering,
and not the cut of muscle you now hold in your hands
— beating, still
— bleeding, still.
Maybe you wanted something not made of teeth,
or hair, or nails.
Maybe I shouldn’t have skinned myself
thinking every lover would want to trace my veins
like rivers leading to open shores —
maybe you just wanted something more
palatable.
Like a poem.
But even my poems were like being brought bones
and not knowing what to do with them.
It’s okay that you didn’t know what to do with them.
I never did either.

His name is the smallest thing I have ever held between my palms,
pressed together, as though in prayer.
I stopped saying it.
Taught myself psalms instead –
bribed my own tongue into hymn.
None of this came naturally.
I dreamed whole cathedrals into being;
their candlelight trying to push back the darkness.
I dreamed of hammering nails through my pale wrists.
When I wake, I am a girl without a father
– which is to say that when I wake,
nothing has changed.

Ravens. Then crows. Then maybe a darkness that followed me for years. I tried to dress it up with stars – I thought it’d do the same for me. That in a closed room, with no windows, we could still take the breath from one another’s mouth and live. And that we wouldn’t feel trapped or sad. And that if I promised, you would promise, not to wish for colour.

I wanted to ask you how you’re sleeping now. Does the sunlight caress your face like the cupped hand of a tender lover? Or do you still sit in that room, sometimes, alone? Is it getting hard to breathe without my breath? Or did someone else dress you up with stars brighter than I could ever conjure?

How do I tell you that I cut down the tree outside my bedroom? I’ll let the empty space talk where I cannot. Still, it doesn’t stop the bluebirds – or the cardinals – or the canaries. They land on the edge of the windowsill and sing. In the morning, I turn my face into the sunlight and open eyes. And there is my tender lover, smiling.

I apologize for the waste;
this wasteland,
that beckons circling vultures to land.
I apologize for my hands;
too meek to separate bone from meat
and eat it all.
I still want — I still want.
And the birds call,
and call…