Back to Issue Thirty-One

Hand Me My Leather


If I am past mercy, it is only to show
that I can invent laws, too.

Drawn inside the deep pink
of public throat, bless of chainlink,

I remove ten drops from the cup
with my fingers. It makes more sense

to be sacerdotal, to give
frantic apologies for death

and tumors, assault and freelessness.
Deserve a white chant we lesson

and lesson, giving out noble shots
to the chest. We want penance

to be a true seam, rosary
a sentence so blooming we carry it

within us like a key. This is no
easy landscape, bruise of walnut oil

dropped from above. We watch
and still beauty also watches.

Most of what I felt when crossing
the frozen lake was nothing, but still

I made myself my own model
of bravery. I don’t know revenge.

I look for aphorisms to wake to,
ask the machine of myself to pull at me

in a way that produces a cry. I want to know
the places where darkness was bought,

what plagues took to an iron chair
like seasons: one by one, after one,

then another one. I am still frightened
by peace. Not even a crocus can be beautiful

without forgetting. The trail is still flooded
with the suffering of others. We remove

ten drops from the bitter throat.
We remove ten drops from the bitter throat.



Pattern of Behavior


               It is hard to write on the thumb
you’ve bitten to death, hard to name
               any story for what it is. We are reaching out 
to those with similar unsettling experiences, I read.
               To establish a pattern of behavior. For the moment,
let’s call it theater of vindication. Let’s call it
               the bittergreen of dread. Loud as a pushing
throat, a line of questioning I want
                                 to want to be asked.

               The body keeps its bittergreen
and knows nothing, how a symbol
               becomes too soon an elbow, too-strong
hands in memory circling my undressed neck.
               An archive wants nothing to do with me.
Any memory I catch now is a feral flinging:
        (1) He rag-carried me across a parking lot.
(2) He made sure I knew what all he could do to me. 
               If he wanted. When the bittergreen cracks,

               no one is there: this story’s water
only destroys. What kind of courage does that reward,
               to find some little truth? It isn’t my courage.
I don’t own it. But I have held my own body
               in my hands as if it were a smear
of paint, of blood. I have had to smile
               because I am friendly, held shut tight
and hoped I was wrong. Smile because
               I am a rite, a pretty thing on my knees,
and now there is a monument
               to the violet room he holds court in.

The gag is instructive. I wipe dark oil
               from myself. I dry roses for grief,
dry roses for witches. I prod to find sensation.
               We know the end is near when the gods
finally arrive. Time to smother your glass rage,
               time to draw up its board and tank.
I am so sorry to keep standing. I have stopped singing,
               and that is my crime.




Gale Marie Thompson is the author of Helen or My Hunger (YesYes Books, 2020), Soldier On (Tupelo Press, 2015) and two chapbooks. She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. Her work appears in American Poetry Review, Tin House Online, jubilat, Gulf Coast, BOAAT, and Crazyhorse, among others. She is the founding editor of Jellyfish Magazine, and she lives in the mountains of North Georgia, where she directs the Creative Writing program at Young Harris College. You can find her on Twitter at @thegalester.

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