When I was alive, Zerlina’s aria
rang in church, not mine.
Her voice, soft & sexless.
My voice, a bullet
ricocheting off the chancel.
They were God’s songs, beaten
into pink pavement.
I brewed spirits to forget the taste
of the Italian lyric.
Manipura became my catholicon—
a bead strung on blue tantra thread.
After prayer, each bead bitten, swallowed.
Inside, they lived as tapeworms
spoiling the meat of the ribcage.
My appendix carried grenades.
In Heaven, children sing the body holy—
pretzeled legs & braided hands, cheeks
grinding against mahogany.
I join them because God visits
often. I want to feel Him
around my throat, to be baptized
clean as a soprano.
When he’s gone, we smoke at the altar.
Spirits unwind from our cigars, staining the body
like wet bourbon on silk.
After exorcism, my lungs fermented.
Mouth full of ashes, tongue pulled by light.
From the spaces in my bones, a new hymnody.
Katherine Vandermel is a writer who thinks of writing as painting: each word imbues the world with coloration. She loves music and a good, warm croissant. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alexandria Quarterly, and National Poet Quarterly, among others, and has been recognized by Behrend College and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She edits for Siblini Art and Literature.
Visual Art by Dawn Jooste.