A Wilderness Of Women

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
          –Revelation 12:6

A milksnake curls around the throat of a woman           in a milkwhite dress.
Her knees mud-scabbed           her mouth a bouquet of stitches           finger
pricked, three drops of blood on the spindle, the thorn, the razor
blade dropped on the garden path           there are other
girls in the woods who have stuffed their mouths with sweet-
bread mushrooms           who have scaled the tower           with gun
powder beneath their nails          hair
snarled with burrs blood           children
strapped to their backs and knives
to their thighs
                    manna, salamander, heart-root.
The riverwater churns cold. White sheets bloom with roses of blood.
What if the story is a thread, a wire, a snake, a rope that moors the flat-
bottomed boat to the bank and the water is dark and filled with eels?
Girls with their mouths sewn shut           tongues cut out
wedding cake stuck           to the roofs of their mouths
clamber in           dresses translucent with rain.
Untie the knot, cut the rope.
The dragon opens his grimy eye.
Snake, speak:
                                       The boats choke the stream, there
                                        are so many and so many more will drown.
                                       Out here in the wilderness hunger gathers its cloud
                                       like the point of a storm touching down.


Sara Quinn Rivara's work has appeared or is forthcoming in blackbird, Rhino, 32 Poems, Bluestem, poemeleon, Cream City Review and in many other places. Her chapbook, "Lake Effect" (Aldrich Press, 2012) was featured by Late Night Library. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and boys.