CA

Jewel Cao 

Idolatry

In the pale distance, you– deerlike, lissome limbs tangled in a bathrobe.
In your hand, a plate of fruit– shriveled mandarins, dried prunes–
you never quite understood desire.

And I thought: well this is not the most surprising thing I have seen today,
and indeed it was not, because then the water began pouring down and I
swear, you looked like Jesus on the mountain. Mist-wreathed Magdalene,
Sinner-in-arms, this should not have been possible. At this point, you were
already three months dead.

Yesterday night, it was July but I still woke up cold. In the dream,
it was a woman who was slender and lovely in a severe way. “Are
you nervous?” she asked, and I answered: “Yes, very.” Then,
I took off my shirt. Her fingers were electric as a cattle prod,
and feeling beautiful, I arched up like a reed bent by the wind.

Here is another story about you that never did you any good:
In a village, there was a fearsome wolfdog guarding the gate
to the local factory. Its bite could grind a brick into meaty pulp.
Walking home from school, it followed you, growling, and so you
turned, grabbed it by its scruff, and took it to the ground.
You gave it such a good beating that after, when you walked
past, it whimpered. In this story, there are only two characters.

Now that you have vacated your body, will your skin fit
over me in the way light enrobes a lightbulb? I made you
defeatable the moment your name warped between my lips
and snow began falling in August. It is just that I have always
been someone who measures the furrows suffering lashes
into a face, someone who graphs the frequency of a child’s
jagged cry, that it would ruin a hundred bristling blades of grass.
For that, I am sorry. What was all that I called pain, save
for your crown I could not help but try on?

Tonight, the sky is an unnatural hypothesis, one that, despite
the difficulty, I mean to prove. When I unwrap You by the waist,
are you the breast that fed me, or the hand that chokes me?
Tell me what fell you, if only so I may go up to it and clasp
Its feet, begging.

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Jewel Cao is a student in grade 11, living in Vancouver, Canada. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Contemporary Verse 2, Poetry Northwest, and Room Magazine, among others.