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July 26, 2019 Poetry

I Hope My Salt Lamp Is a Weeping Deity

Erin Slaughter

I Hope My Salt Lamp Is a Weeping Deity photo

and not evidence that my house
is sprouting a fever. I wake to find the base
leaky with saline, a puddle of wettened shelf, and send
L a picture of the flood, calling it prophet
with a question mark. She informs me
prophet is the wrong word; a prophet needs language—but what
is this lamp but a mouth: rock hollowed of light
and slobbering. I have pressed my tongue
to this stone in prayer for luminescence, for living
salt not siphoned from my own skin. I live
in Florida and had to turn the heater on today
for the first time since I’ve lived in Florida.
I used to love winter until I fell in love

under a funeral of Christmas lights, childhood’s
ghost flooding from my overripe lips in mist—pleas
to the universe that never came true but propelled
me to Florida where I live untethered
to anything but my own plastic worship
where I am when I am lonely. I am lonely

and just learning how to say I’m lonely and not mean it
as a placeholder for the other absences
a noun leaves. I’m sitting on the porch
steeped in the ordinary human sadness
of not getting what I hoped for. After your hand on my neck
I felt so barefaced and linen. Now I’m stuck
hoarding words like choirs of expensive ants.
There are people near and far away
who have unspoken agreed to pass through this life
with me / isn’t it enough / why can’t I stop

talking about THE TREES, their haunted glitter
swirling like old pennies in my head. As if a taste of metal
at the back of the mouth means I can be salvaged
at the hands of someone I have yet to meet and if I present my body
as sacrifice I can finally walk away from it. I moved
to Florida to burn, molting magenta blooms, the summers
smothering every want with a wet open palm.
Like a birch switch. Like a kiss. I tell L, I am
almost certain I will die alone
shriveled to the bone and huddled close
to a magnolia
TREE. There’s still no way to get at
what I’m trying to get at, nothing to make up for the fact

I want to capture every purple flower
and hold it hostage in my throat. That I once believed monarchs
could live whole lives at my hairline
and showers did not make me sad and I was not afraid
of how much I have grown to love the blowfish,
taxidermied, hollowed into a lamp
hanging over the bar in wait for someone
to notice and name him. This is a partial list of things
I would have once called suffering—wondering
how many utterly broken women are pushing strollers
on the burning streets of small towns and how little
difference between noticing the details of anything
and loving it recklessly. The foolish heart

marching in all its birdsong and burgundy glitter
to stand in front of the firing squad. Everything today
feels bigger than the passing series of clouds
that shaped it. Aware even now that I am choosing
which parts to remember, your words with their tiny
apologetic hooks of hope, the pattern of rain
falling across your skin and my desire
to show you how light never stops moving. If this secret
is a book of dark orchids in the archive
of our inevitable human hearts, it’s nothing
new to say that I scraped my knees raw
on the sand kneeling over your body, that both
the wounds I did and did not ask for are shedding

to reveal new skin. I ask L, Do you think it’s possible
to be horny for poetry
? I am so tired of mouth,
trying to translate its meaning which has nothing to do with incisors
cheekflesh or the wily slide of tongue. For every hour lust paces
in its basement prison, there is a lost, feral possum inside of me

surviving very quietly. Everyone has agreed
the audience is tired of hearing about the body, the body, but there was something
opening in mine, heaving unholy as a litany
of cows giving birth in the pasture of night.
A TREE knows: you’ve got to feel every follicle
of these painfields.
Says: fold into the flooding.
I hope someday to say out loud to anyone: you
touched me and touched me and touched me
and I was made better for it.



image: Aaron Burch