Licentious 1920 965 Sara Moore Wagner

When spring comes, I go naked to the lake
near the hospital where I was born, and there
is my mother, she has brought me a dress
made from this April sky, the clouds hanging low,
dragonflies flitting over the surface of the water,
cattails fat and meaty. She tells me come out,
someone has seen me undressed as I am, the bounce
of my breasts, this ache. I will have to marry the snake
slivering into the banks, will have to marry the sun,
a thick hand on my shoulders. How much I resemble
my little mother even now, holding out fists of earth
to the morning. Give me a husband who’s never seen the glint
of my skin, how it looks like a knife, like a fine new hide
to carry home to the children, to place by the fire.
Give me someone who will weave me a robe
from the grass behind my childhood home,
will sit me in the swing where my mother used to rock me
back and forth singing you have stolen my heart
now don’t go away. When I call out for him,
the opossum hears me first, long-nosed, a jawful of teeth.
After I leave, in the middle of the night,
he comes to my bedside, favors the darkness
I’ve grown there, the way my sheets pitch up
into a cave, how I’ve always been bifurcated,
two halves of a girl, my want so pungent
it reminds him of his mother, how she’d play
dead in the road for the hawks,
pretend to not be so lovely, pouch full
of babies thick as disease.

Header photograph © Jason D. Ramsey.

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