By: Jennifer Thal
A Service in the Shit
At 9:15 AM, our small Troop lost another.
We had slept through the napalm of neurosis and the dementia detonators, and we awakened to
Her squelching muddied footsteps receding beyond impenetrable jungle of tangled bushes and carnivorous psychosis smacking chapped lips.
Our Chester County leader has already lost others in the shit, and balances their corpses on his sloping shoulders and keeps walking.
He keeps a space on the bone-growth of his shoulder for Hers.
There is no body to bury. Instead, we burn what remains of the our past steps in a smudged-out
Rain doesn’t come. None of nature’s tears for us, no service soaked in remorse; we don’t want to wake up whatever is sleeping unseen. Saffron-yellow eyes blink in dense green foliage.
He lights a Yahrtzeit candle from the gas we’ve hurled at the trees, and we cough up
ashes and swallow them back down, tasting the salt of flesh.
We light a Yahrtzeit candle in the shadows of lawless and rural cradled arms. Mother Nature is indifferent today. She ghosts mildewed orchid breath in our sweating faces, and we burn the
place up with the nebulous smoke of memory stained with tawny celebration and sunset honor.
We embalm the place we can’t see: where She clawed through and found the shuddering body attached to blinking saffron-yellow eyes and stayed there; candied chestnut hair and a voice that used to shake the knotted roots of the tamarinds. Sparrow’s bones crunch beneath our feet.
Someone murmurs “I’ll keep her in my prayers.”
I haven’t been to a house of God in eight years and I haven’t seen God in twenty-two and
there are none here now; my tongue is numb and in its place my limbs are learning the
spasms of existence, the strained muscles pulled taut walking endlessly towards--
I don’t hear our Troop leader respond; an absence of a medically trained voice against Death’s
Maybe I haven’t been listening.
Maybe He isn’t listening either.
What’s dead stays dead here. We carry on; We fear no ghosts of memory, of grief or of loss.
Not until we get Home.
Jewels of Prey
My mother gave birth to us in her den of Cartier, diamonds cut into our newly formed flesh, and blood filled the space between a dry breast and a hungry mouth. I am not sure if my mother wanted to raise decorated daughters or vultures, but she tried to train her wild children and starve her hungry hatchlings all the same.
My mother wrestled herself into a self-prescribed den in the warm dark of the earth, and coated her hatchlings in jewels. Fragments of jasper freckle across our shoulders and down our arms, rubies run from opened wounds and sapphires swell from the corners of our eyes; these precious stones cut into our flesh as deeply as my mother's claws as she held her anger in her palms, cracked my skull open and devoured the soft meat of my childhood. Her lonely rage seeped through the shredded flesh and I was left with scars shaped like motherly love.
When she broke free of her Xanax shackles, I have seen a lucid, wild-eyed creature raise her head and grip my childhood with fingernails painted somewhere between the blood that trickled when I began to pluck my feathers out as a fat flightless bird, and the orange of sunsets I watched from the window of a grey Mercedes Benz as my mother raced towards a shore house to sleep late and peck at salt-water taffy and smoke on the balcony while my sister and I played in the sand.
When my mother is lucid, there is a bite, a snap of her jaws to her voice that makes me tense like a chick who wandered into the fox's den, her words puncture like needles, she collects and stores the repeated phrases and promises and oaths to test for betrayal, and my arms are scattered with pinpricks of a test that I have never passed.
When my mother is lucid, I dream of a fat hatchling that creeps into the den and looks into the fox’s eyes, swoops down like the bird of prey she was raised to be, and cracks the skull open like a nut. She will feast on motherly love, and when she is finally full, she will make a nest in the foxes den, watch her feathers grow from scarred flesh, and take flight.
Jennifer is 23 years old and is a current student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Chicago pursuing her doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She enjoys reading at open mic nights, advocating for body positivity, and empowering her readers through her writing. Her work has appeared, or will appear, on NotYourMothersBreastMilk.com and The Esthetic Apostle.