“The Devil is Going to Take Your Soul” – Dante, age 4

Everything is dear. I soak the piss

from your pants while the lilac wail

of laundry whirls beside me. Over

the ammonia scent I’ll soon forget

I caress the cotton and the clasp,

hoping texture will outlast the rot

of my synapses. Since you emerged

entrail damp, your body clabbered

in my aftermath, I have prepared for

this dropkick to your innocence, this

strictly non-Sesame Street eventuality,

still it all but breaks me. I hang up after

our nanny says you keep threatening

her family – the devil you tease will be

unleashed. To be honest, your concept

of the devil isn’t based in Christianity

but in Cuphead, a videogame which stars

gambling debt and mischievous cutlery.

Your dad assures her he monitors your

screen. I tell her you don’t know God 

has an opponent, to you the Devil’s just

a villain like the Joker, hardly potent. I

know she doesn’t believe this, the static

in the receiver a reminder that the tie

between other mothers and me is always

warped by the space I leave: your palms

prayer empty, your lips scripture clean.

Alexa Doran is currently working on her PhD in Poetry at Florida State University. Her full-length collection DM Me, Mother Darling won the 2020 May Sarton Poetry Prize and will be published by Bauhan Publishing in Spring 2021. She is also the author of the chapbook Nightsink, Faucet Me a Lullaby (Bottlecap Press 2019). You can look for work from Doran in recent or upcoming issues of Passages North, Literary Mama, Anti-Heroin Chick, THE BOILER, and Harvard Review, among others. For a full list of her publications, awards, and interviews please visit her website at alexadoran.com