Conversion with Petrichor and This Clitoris
Somewhere west of Maroon Bells and the hardest part of my body I pull over and put the parking brake on. Gravel and sunrise brittle underfoot, scattered with the things I’ve made a life out of up until now: the nail all the iron in me could be reduced to, hip bones clawed with ice, six days from blood and the bits of shame I’ve let build up in my body against my best intentions. I swore I’d never be that woman but here I am looking over my shoulder, checking for headlights that might’ve followed me up the winding road to the middle of my life so far, this canyon road of yawning stone. Morning of coffee, boot, and a black wing’s tremble. Truck light and rust and maybe something good. Clavicle and a cold forge. I came out here to remind myself— something about belief and my body. Speak the names of those like me, girls gone underworld, into the mouths of rattlesnakes. Watch how their hearts turn in their bodies, stones.
We were saved,
Mother, for the men
we were to give ourselves to.
Lean years when bucks
rubbed velvet against the Ford
rusting its skeleton in the field and girlbodies
needled with such gold
barn dust and hay stilled in doorways.
What man would not have lost his salvation
in me, brief as November's indigo,
in the unchapeled shadows
of truckbed and my skull.
Don't be temptation.
Don't be coyote and hunting
-en woman. Don't be a man
don't love anything
but his hair's slow creek
-spun sunlight, unbodied.
The godly deserve
The fallen deserve
Semis parked in fields scrawled with red paint: pray an end to abortion.
I laid myself down on the bed beneath winter’s cross -hairs of light, threshold at which I’ve cupped my lips again and again— in my small room I took what was meant for them and gave it to myself a dark so full of my heartbeat I thought I was a horse lulled in grace, rocking my softening pelvic bone against my hand taut pearling under the white sheet and the ceiling light’s mouth-drowned
tungsten begging my name. This secret satisfaction I carried for days knowing what I had denied
men. And meanwhile all the mothers bowed their heads and prayed over their daughters
walking into the winter fields may she be saved, saved, saved.
Nothing escapes punishment forever. Here is the thaw; here, her bones returned at the base of the cliff, used. I come out here ready to shed everything, let go of the false things I’ve believed—men’s hands, tongues, the necessary burning of this place—and to remember wire, snow runoff, toughened breasts. Lord, Mother, I came out here to be made whole and clean again. Forgive each time his voice has called to me across the street and I’ve said nothing. Each time he’s asked if I’m single, if I live alone while he’s driving me home, if I know I have snow on my boots and I kept my fist inside my throat. Each time I’ve doubted the story told to me by a friend about his hands. Each time I’ve wanted to wrench something loose from the mineral lake behind my ribs. Take this heart of flesh and give me something stronger. I came out here to remind myself of the truth of clitoris, lip, force, cold. Lord, I vow to speak in cold air the shape they tried to reduce me to: cunt, cunt, cunt.
I’ll praise the labia dark as gun muzzle: bearded capshell, doe lips nuzzling charred calayxes.
Praise hip and obturator foramen clotting with avalanche lilies thick as bottle necks.
Praise the slicked ligament and churned lining belly-held above my thighs, the memory of water
locked the way rock layers hold lake: I’m silt-wave knocking in the absent heart
of a fish’s skeleton.
I’m struck iron. Eucharist torn up to feed the starving crows. Coverts and arched back. I’m roughed brown feathers over the pink chapel doors.
I spit my molars into the ground and each one grows a new girl I raise to know the strength of her own body
and to take the kick of the cold stock of her own anger. I can touch myself into a winter morning
and it will never be for anyone. I’m rainbow riffled round the edges of oil puddle. Caudal tail
and travesty. I’m so beautiful I can’t stop licking my own name. I’ll reach down
to grab the hands of every unbreathed girlbody
trapped underground beneath me. Pull her up from my chest to follow my tracks back across the whitened field, our bodies swallowing themselves into winter sky.