At age 10, I will wake,
a boy already drunk with the ashes of his father.
Eyes inebriated, yet mind still sober enough
to behold his mother
playing pranks with a needle.
Syringe to her right palm,
in her left, cotton reeking of spirit.
She divides the earth into an equator
and sticks the needle into the upper left arch.
Eyes closed in what seem like savoring the bliss of pain;
she mutters a prayer beneath her breath,
I assume it is to the god of things lost;
I assume it is to the god of things that never long to be found.
At 14, I will kiss a girl who knits her own history.
She cultivates a forest on her head, a thick forest
where her broken spirit can be led away,
left to stray like an Azazel.
She buries my head between her thighs;
she warns that I will taste down there
the essence of her father, a man who eats babies for lunch.
She will have me weave her hair into one strong strand,
there is a lone tree at the center of the forest she has cultivated;
her locks will serve as rope from which her soul will dangle to freedom.
At 16, I will fail to take off my shoes at the door of the shrine house;
I will fail to enter the front door of the votive temple with my back,
I will enter the most holy place without knocking,
only to behold behind the rendered veil,
the nakedness of god.
She could have my eyes gorged out,
but there is always another way
to pay for crimes not committed;
so at the hill of rags,
I will leave my gown
like a propitiation on the floor;
I will burn my innocence upon her altar,
and I will learn, there is more than one meaning to light. ✚
Nathaniel is a poet and journalist.