by Lisette Alonso
to the gods of dried milk and malnutrition,
the gods of wanting and outstretched hands.
her husband just kept putting babies in her,
is there a kinder way to say this out loud?
blessed was her body’s fertile soil, rich and
earthen and teeming with life until it wasn’t.
how after so many seasons the loam became
nutrient starved, begging mineral and rain,
but still the sky and earth conspired against her,
still the babies came and the husband, hallelujah,
less man than bull, less bovine than insatiable,
a predator stalking the bedposts, always anointing.
blessed were the babies, the sea of infants expelled
by her body, dragging her spirit behind like an umbilicus.
forgive her, god of never, she couldn’t feed them all,
couldn’t find them in the dark to suckle them,
so that the littlest ones flared out like match heads,
and then what was left of her became ash and bramble,
her mouth numb as her breasts and the palms of her hands,
her head a terrible buzzing so she never spoke another word,
blessed were the children who remained, parceled out
to neighbors and kin, but the tiniest ghosts she kept
tucked like stones beneath her tongue, balled like fists
between her ribs, like prayers to an immovable god,
forever and ever amen.