Priestess, I say:
you will spit hymns like stale gum
from chapped lips, dry from your
wanderings through the wasteland.
The pilgrims will kneel before you,
press their wet hair to your feet, but you
will not feel them, heels too callused
from the years, your shoulders weighed
down by their sins. Deliver their messages
or not, the gods are deaf anyways –
deaf to all but you, and you know the
divine only care about exquisite pains
taken, austerities that garner cruel boons,
such as the flowers that bloom where
your blood spills, or your blue eyes
that burn any mortal that looks upon you
with more than reverence in his heart –
the gods were always jealous, anyways,
and the last man you loved died by
lightning strike – better not to tempt them.
Stars will weave dreamcatchers at night,
but slumber has brought nothing but terrors
to you since you were a girl, phantasmagorias
of deities and demons combusting. Better
to have sleepless nights, stringing rosaries
and chanting hymns, to bathe in rosewater and
wash your lord’s touch from your skin;
but still his mantras are stained on your flesh,
and your devotion is a web meant to cut you,
you cannot escape him, no matter what labyrinth
you crawl through, knuckles stained wine red.
The truth is he loves you broken, adores you
thirsting after prophecy and revelations,
shooting your veins with moonlight, needle
like a spine of the old ones. Hair shorn with
death’s sickle, you drag yourself through
charnel ground ash, seeking release in decay.
Everyone thinks you are blessed, but curses
play like music on the ears of innocents,
and spells sometimes cannot be broken,
no matter how many iron shoes you wear.
So you keep the temple, tend his sacred flame,
a step away from self-immolation, starved
and smooth-skinned, fading into marble
everyday (he always said you were milky
as a statue). Someday you will be stone,
hewn rough like a rain-worn gargoyle,
but until then, you wait, become a cathedral,
and your towering windows filter light
in milky blues and golds, letting only half-truths in,
dust settles across your caryatid limbs,
the pilgrims stop coming, you crumble,
always worshipped, never believed,
for how could a god rape a girl?
Divine communion is never forced,
says the doctrine, you cried wolf
too many times, and when the jackal
came, everyone thought yours screams
a song – a psalm, one of the legions
of the wounded, who always suffer
so beautifully at the hands of the infinite.
Girls lie, but the gods are true,
and their might makes right, so silence
your cries, sew shut your mouth –
you don’t want the kingdom to think
you a whore. Say it was consensual,
there were no bruises or bite-marks,
don’t tell them about his grimace –
gods are always handsome.
Gods are always just, who they desire
are pure, they don’t fornicate in dirt,
they don’t leave girls stranded in the
forest, bleeding and cold, wondering.
Priestess, I say: