Back to Issue Twelve.

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS SKIN

BY NICOLE ROLLENDER

 

The words for God’s work are nail
through palm
and drink my chaliced 

blood. My mother schooled me with stained
glass, saints with anchors hung around

their necks, golden and risen now
from drowning. Or pierced with arrows, 

the muscled shoulder and groin, wounds red
and shining open, alive. If you kneel down hard

in winter, bare knees in snow, frost-biting your tender
skin on purpose. Like holy men who flogged

their backs until the skin disappeared, laying
out the architecture of prostration, bent spine, web

of sinew wet with prayer-blood, you give over
your body. But if God’s work is expose the soul, if it’s un-map

the skin
, if it’s trace litany breaking my bones, I thirst for holy
waters
, then mother says, open up your body to the air.

To be sainted, leave your home in these silent trees. Slice
out memory. Pool blood. Girl, listen, skin your beauty

when my hand can’t cut. This one act will bear you
to paradise in iron claws.



Rollender 12

Nicole Rollender is editor of Stitches. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly ReviewBest New PoetsThe JournalRadar PoetrySalt Hill JournalTHRUSH Poetry JournalWest Branch, and others. Her first full-length poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications. She is the author of the chapbooks Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio), Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications), and Bone of My Bone, a winner in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest, forthcoming this year. She’s the recipient of poetry prizes from CALYX JournalRuminate Magazine, and Princemere Journal. Find her online at nicolerollender.com.