there’s a witch grave in Tallahassee altar for tea-thimbles pennies I tell you her wedding date carved into the pillar sandwiched between birth & death & 100 years to the day before my own parents married you glance at the sky like you’re waiting for a cloud to bruise you god-fisted these days I am remarkably sunlit absorbing & considering tenderness a verb hold breath to walk past a cemetery find wishing instead a collapsed lung a word loses meaning the more you imagine how it would move in front of you sincerity unbearable as squinting into the wet open throat of summer people like us aren’t looking for happiness but these trees might be enough Pisces moon & sentimental fern shadow burn away clean as brushfire nobody loves a city nobody loves what can’t love them back but if I sit still enough & let my voice play painter in the cave if I’m hermit & gin-soaked it’s all language of possession the only difference between selfishness & love is who gets to walk away from what I tell you I once stumbled on a wedding photo was shocked to see my parents holding each other ’s gaze my mother’s eyes fearsome blue & wide how finding that grave was the thriftshop version of a capsized magic I always meant to get around to feeling & you tell me as a kid you were made to stuff poison into meats feed to dogs on the other side of the fence not knowing why it shouldn’t be victory walking into a room & feeling just one thing at a time life such terrific sandpaper vaporous crosshatch of limbs on the other side of the page some boy in some lake floats in the nailed-shut window of what his heart doesn’t know will leave him unscathed the difference between empathy & fidelity is who presses what words into whose skin who pretends to or to not swell with narrative who carries story like a clung rot tooth nobody can bear to pull
Erin Slaughter is editor and co-founder of literary journal The Hunger, andthe author of two chapbooks: GIRLFIRE (dancing girl press, 2018) and Elegy for the Body (Slash Pine Press, 2017). Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Prairie Schooner, Split Lip Magazine, Passages North, and elsewhere. Originally from north Texas, she is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Her first full-length poetry collection is forthcoming from New Rivers Press in 2019. You can find her online at erin-slaughter.com.