Glória, Tell Me Where to Put My Hands || Melissa Austin

I might have prayed, but I don’t remember.
There were three of them in the truck, their
sick slick, raw chicken faces, shining.
They held position next to me. There was
no one else. No one but us, and
their shouts & sickening gestures,
something thrown, something liquid
slithering down the glass. I can see
their eyes, liquor-shiny and out of place as
marbles pressed into wet dough.

The highway was the throat of the desert, darkening
and stretching to swallow me whole. A mercy.
(They’re only trying to scare me.) I think
I prayed to something. I felt the tremor
of a dozen small apocalypses
in the longest seven minutes
on record. Then

I was sick for three days. Sick until I walked
into the morning desert, where I learned survival
is magic. Is a desperate act of will. Like
walking off the trail to gather
three thorns from the dead Ocotillo. (One for each.)
Like tying the knots with black cord. Like bleeding
into the storm water and the rusted nails. (One for each.)
Like my love’s brother towing that truck from
the side of the same stretch of dark highway.
After the ambulance. After the clean-up.

I could taste my heart in my mouth.
Tried to grasp my power at the root—Where is it,
the site of power in all bodies?
I bit down hard. (Glória, please.)

This time, instead, I will open the windows and
sweep the doorstep. I will wash the floors and walls.
Scrub my skin with sugar & lavender petals. I will
rinse my hair with vinegar & clove oil.

There is magic in clean sheets, Glória, so
do I praise them? Or the teethmarks on my heart?
The dead Ocotillo, the devouring highway, the storm?
It is all dark. All brutal.
But where is the root? At the center?
It must be.
Glória, Diosa! You say
there’s a heart in your cunt, and it beats!
And I believe you.
I want to find your pulse.
I want to taste it.

This was originally published in Spring 2018 edition of The Helix.

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