by Annie Martin
2nd Place Winner
2020 Ember Chasm Review Poetry Contest
Even the thinnest skin is still a membrane
-Sally Wen Mao
Six feet deep off the banks of august-tar
in a drainage ditch gone dry
and grassy, I surrendered
to sweatbees; implored;
Take my blood, take my body-
It felt better to feed their frenzy
than to string my bits
across the highway; a Pollock painting
nobody wants to frame
A hollowed-out plastic jug filled with a cocktail
of rainwater and antifreeze-
sun cooks my flesh, hibachi,
sweat is seasoning and I am a feast
for the jewel-bright larvae;
I invite them to crawl up my skirt, chew
my salt. Painted cornfields stretch for miles (and
the police officer flirts with my mother.)
The woman on the bus peels an orange, and the sticky dust
coats her shiny blue acrylics;
the night is often like this. I breathe
citrus and skin with relish. During christmastime, my father
reminds us; when he was growing up
the only thing awaiting him under the tree was a
bright bulb of Florida navel; a delicacy-
back in those days, such a tang was a fleeting and sacred thing.
Cold hotel bathroom tiles are always thirsty
for the salt of my tears. When I shrivel,
I’m only gasps and gashes. The tub cradles me, stinks
of silt, sweat, semen-
and other invisible stains. The porcelain whispers, begs of me;
Be clean, blood or nothing.
This is about heartbeats, skin, and money.
The lungs of the women who sit out back,
smoking menthols and sipping slurpees.
How ichor tastes like honey but seeps slow through the veins
(and I will never feel light again).
This is about who gets away.
A boy in my bed.
He does not understand that a rose
is an amalgamation. And why should I tell him? When he sleeps
so soundly, when his breath presses in
on the corners of this room
with such tender friction? I drink syrup
to wet my tongue, to make myself ill,
and to render the retch tolerable.
Somewhere deep in history, my father’s father
pulled the teeth from my spine, gave birth
to a generation of doe-eyed girls
with sweaty palms and dry knuckles.
He called them angels;
In the half-light, they look like bees.
Annie Martin is a poet and essayist from Clark, Colorado. She currently studies English at Amherst College in Massachusetts, where she transferred after two years at Emerson College in Boston. She recently won the Laura Ayres Snyder Prize for a collection of her poetry.
Check out our interview with Annie Martin here.