Ave Maria beneath the boardwalk. I will never
tell anyone what I saw there, past the sunbathers
laid out like sewage, between the sea-pitted pillars.
You led me there where you slid your breasts
up from your stained tunic and into your most holy
hands. Lady Maria, teach me how to pray. I am a child
& do not know how. Move my lips until I believe
a man can kiss a man like this. Show me how
to praise the gulls’ resounding, the rollers’ thrum.
Sweet Lady of the Juniper Berries, snow rolled
into cedar groves, treeline rinsed in wintry mist—
my mother placed me in your January arms,
gave me to your breastless chest when I walked
into the helix of snow sprawl, into the spindle
of an eye undone, not to return. You prostrated me
beneath a barbwire fence, my wool jacket snagged
on its hook. The tabernacle of your arms with its closed
gilded doors, the open mouth of without.
Goatblood mustaches the mouths of doors.
A volcano-split sky: a candle lit to remind us
we too melt like bricks, become tephra fossils
in the garden. Jackson City chased by fire.
We wait for ashes, bored. This rapture hallelujah,
this inferno goddamn, the angel of death
checking each window with a maglight. My blinds
drawn, the light stripes us. We make love like zebras,
our punkrock mohawks, our desperate fingers touching.
Beata Vergine, touch the parts of my body
most faithful. Accept my hymn, my frail limning.
With dawn stretched across our foreheads, the sound
of a wave in the highest room drowning
my reddest pharaohs—Lady, I will dance with you
in the streets until a show of hummingbirds swarms
from beneath your hem & chants Gregorian to the morning.
You are our life, our nectar, our agave’s bluest
spear. Hail Holy Queen, I will love you ruby-throated.
Salve Regina, there’s a pistol down my throat,
a cocked magazine in my hand. See what
I have done. I came to him in the night while
my parents were sleeping, past snow-covered
amaryllises, grapes frozen on a trellis. I came rosaries
onto his chest. He was a loaded gun, a game
of Russian roulette. We lay like sunburnt scorpions
under a star-studded sheet. We lay on a slant
moon. My dismantled breath, our barbs leaking poison.
Owl squawk & sumac. The bough’s barb
snapping back to the tree, face of Mary
slowly chewing, teeth-scooped peach bruising
in her hand. She swallowed the pit whole. No surprise:
it bulged in her throat, an Adam’s apple,
an egg-eating snake. Now a fig-sprout clothes
her cleft where a wet shaft fruits, her breasts deflate.
Now Adam’s all weepy. Wind hissing leaves,
the darkening forest alive with the Deerman’s blinking.
The Deerman in a suit beaded with burrs, tie
tight at his neck. He lives behind torn leaves,
behind black bark, in bat-hollows of trees. Thighs & cock
he offers. Sancta Maria in the moonlight.
Nearing a grove of nettles & moon flowers,
I crush mushrooms with my knees in my blue
stumbling toward your feet. Constantly I kiss
them. Beneath your toes, a garden snake writhes,
his antlered tongue a flag tantrum by wind.
Hail Mary after the storm. Hail on my windshield,
the spider-twitch to my ear. These your most
winding roads, begotten not made of ice & corn
flowers lighting the dark. Hail Mary in the gorge
stream, in the glacier meadows. My prayers
are flowers growing between your toes, small ones,
mayflowers, lavender & fragile. Light bluing
the hues of my skin—we may have kissed
in the cracked car but only to keep our lips warm.
Hail Holy Queen, I saw you once through a warm
flush of smoke at a bar: a drag queen
dressed as a peacock shedding curled eyelashes,
your fishnets torn, crooning soul into a dented
microphone. Your drunk rendition
of Amazing Grace, your excessive lips quivering.
Cigarette incense, faux hawk cathedrals, we assumed
you into the floodlights. Fierce advocate
of our hearts, remember us when you come again.