Rites of Passage

Photo by Fabrizio Conti via Unsplash


Rites of Passage



The rock was thrown as a joke, a sleight
of hand. Then, the bursting eye, the entrails-
like stuff pouring out. I knew it was an eye,
but it looked like an unhatched egg, the embryo
throbbing with its own hunger for life.

It missed me, that rock. I saw it coming. I knew
who it was meant for, I ducked. My friend
wasn’t the one with scars earned in righteous
battles against twelve-year-old brutes.
Why, then, didn’t I taunt that boy like she did?

You’re so brave! I yelled a moment before
the rock took root in her eye. She came home
from the hospital and her face was a giant bruise.
So many colors—it was like watching a sunset
yield its mysterious purples to angry reds,

its flaming oranges to vagina pinks, to wishy-
washy yellows. I was inside that sunset,
my edges not quite sealed by the twelve
stitches, like twelve apostles gathered
around me, to drink from my wound. 


In our forties, I learn that my friend cheats
on her husband. He goes to work every day.
Half-blind, she stays at home and cooks.
She makes casseroles; throws everything she has
in the fridge in them, tops it with cheese.

She cooks them on slow heat. They come out
tasting fine, with some exceptions, like that time
when the carrots were rotten, the tomatoes
had mold on them. Otherwise, she’s a good
woman. Slow cooking works in her favor.

Her husband rolls on the skewer,
complaining of minor pains, and she’s there
with the massage therapy oils—all pungent
smells, pungent names, like jojoba, frankincense,
sandalwood. He falls asleep a happy man.

While he sleeps she sneaks out to her neighbor’s
apartment. Her daughter is wide awake in her
Care-Bear-themed room, clutching the blue
successor of the previous pink and green favorites.
Never mind their names, they all care a lot.

The crying of her three-year old jolts
my friend out of the neighbor’s arms and into
her daughter’s room. Still half-dazed
after a quickie, she picks up the child.
She rocks the girl on her knees. 

“Have you been running, Mama?” Yes, she says,
yes, and she cries. And so, she runs away
from the rocks and not toward them. And so
she’s absolved of her sin and ready to join
our circle as Mary Magdalene.


Inside the wound, the colors are changing.
The vagina pinks turn the rusty brown
of old leather, the mysterious purples bloom
a wicked green. I’m no longer welcome in here,
my body squeezed out of the wound

as it snaps shut, petal after petal, over the empty
socket. An outsider like all the others, I wither
on my stalk. I ask for the cup to be given to me—
now, now. I exhale amid thieves and vagabonds,
wait for that spear to pierce.  When it does,

I cry tears, blood. At my feet, Mary cries too,
still holding her daughter. My mother stands
behind her like a statue. She remembers
my toys: a leather scroll, a few pebbles. The voice
of old Simeon, preparing her heart for the sword.


First published in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, issue 48, June 2018

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