Poison Apple

“Wanna bite?” the old woman asked,
holding out her cherry-red confection
polished and gleaming as a new Corvette
or a little girl’s patent leather shoes
on Sunday morning.

Should’ve tipped me to the truth, that glow alone.
Nothing from nature shines straight from the tree,
the earth, the ocean. Not before violence:
the pearl deslimed of its oyster’s flesh,
coal hewn from the depths and lit ablaze.
Even fruit does not reveal its juicy glisten
until split open by greedy teeth.

But I was tired and not attending as I should.
It’s long days, caring for grown men small enough
to resemble children—or call them children
grown destructive enough to resemble men. No matter.
Princess is only a title that escapes drudgery
when some other woman’s close to hand.

What I’m saying is:
Maybe I did notice, after all.
Maybe I did understand.

Maybe I ate it anyway.

~a.i.

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First Apple

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The story that started it all is not a woman’s disobedience, but a woman’s hunger. Generations of daughters cursed because of what one woman put in her mouth, chewed, swallowed.

“Do you really want to eat that?” my mother asks.

Love does not put down a plate only to insist that you abstain.

Love does not hold out scent, flavor, the crisp bite you can already feel sweetening against your tongue, and tell you: “Don’t eat.”

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What Child Is This

I need shelter. . .

. . . Let me in.

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I need shelter and you have locked me out too long.

I need shelter and you pretend that I prefer to be homeless. I need shelter and you act as though I will dissolve if you simply ignore me.

If you determinedly ignore me.

You ignore me as the trap ignores the mouse, as the hook ignores the fish, as the bait ignores the prey. You ignore me as though I am not part of you, warp and weft; as though keeping me out of your home will render you as complete as you dream you are complete. Complete and solid and rid of me, as though I were not already—always—made out of you and you, out of me.

I need shelter.

Let me in.

I first came from inside, did you not know? But now I seek warmth and you lock me in the cellar. I seek comfort and you cage me in the yard. I am ready to come fully home and still you deny me. To my face, you deny me. You deny the very sound of my knock at the door, even as you open it to ask, “Who is there?”

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Skin-Deep

Once upon a time, in a kingdom very far from the sea, there lived a little princess who spent her days scooping up frogs and kissing them full on the mouth (though with very little tongue). This was the destiny bespoke her: that her lips would one day free a prince, who would come to rule her people with justice and grace and love her as deeply and true as only a man with a second chance at life can.

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One day, the little princess noticed a strange thing happening. After each kiss, even as the frogs remained all entirely frog-like, a green splotch would bloom upon her fair skin. Then two splotches. Then three. No amount of lemon juice or pumice stone undid the pigmentation. Soon she grew quite mottled, her once smooth complexion pebbled and waxy to the touch.

“Well, no matter,” she thought to herself, “for isn’t this the essence of love? To transform ourselves without question into that which our Beloved will most desire?”

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Inanna Ascending

“The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable. Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried.”

~ Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery

“From the great heaven the goddess set her mind on the great below.
Inanna set her mind on the great below and abandoned heaven, abandoned earth…
Who has ever ascended from the underworld,
who has ascended unscathed from the underworld?”

~ from the Sumerian epic Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld

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I. Invocation

Queen of heaven’s ziggurat!
Bringer of war and bestower of lust,
mother of humanity!

If you cannot divine which holy face I turn
towards you from the sky,
remember only this:

You fail to worship me at your peril.

II. Rape Under the Palm Tree

Ask what was I wearing that day
and I will tell you: rags / robes /
nothing at all.

Ask and I will tell you: my sovereignty
flying across the sky like a rainbow.

Ask and I will turn
your blood
to water.

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Porridge

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NPS Photo / Nathan Kostegian

A girl looks into a mirror. Staring back: a feral thing with bloodshot eyes, its matted hair jutting twigs and leaves.

Trick of the light.

She shakes her head and the mirror ripples, then settles, like a pond after a skipping stone. Now, across the glass, the girl sees a matching limpid-eyed child in pigtails. She turns her face to the right and to the left, checking herself in profile, and nods, satisfied.

A final toss of her head, and the girl steps away from the mirror, opens the front door, and walks into the bright morning sun.

Stretching from her feet along the sidewalk behind her, the girl’s shadow rears on two hind legs and snarls at the sky.

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