Late September Early October Hemorrhage

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 RumpusPrairie 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