How to Build an Altar

To build an altar you need the familiar territory of a dry riverbed and the shadow of a nuclear power plant. You need the roar of a siren on the air, the highway in the distance, the skull of a kingfisher and the footprints of someone you don’t love anymore. You need a stone from a hand that killed in a war far from home, knucklebones that know the fractals of a willow branch and all the sounds of breaking. You need the smells of honeysuckle, salt, and gunpowder, a piece of iron if you’re superstitious. You need the oil slick iridescence of a cockroach wing and a lock of your mother’s hair. You need the cornerstone of a place that makes you feel safe, even if that place isn’t really a place but a scrap of paper or the empty air. You need a poem written by someone you haven’t met yet.

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This poem first appeared in Lupercalia.

Girl+Muse=

morning, we woke up

and you performed

another extraordinary miracle:

wings split

the paper thin skin

taped across your shoulder blades,

your wet spine

glistened through jauntily

angled prisms thatched

to your ribcage

with flayed nerves

and slippery veins,

as you flew around the room

you said: “No. That’s not how

it happened.”

I woke up alone.

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This poem first appeared in Lupercalia.

Wife of Lot

What is your real name? I hate being called wife, without a name. I think you do too.

How do you feel with a mouth full of salt instead of the languid, tamarind language of your city? The city that sings to you and you the only one who hears her.

What does she sound like? Soprano or alto? Silk or broken windows? Do the cries of the market slide down her throat like tamarind or salt?

Does the gutter water taste like gutter or peppermint schnapps?

I think I could live married to my city as the queen or live lost and alone with no one but my city to comfort me.

When you died, when your city died, you were looking at each other.

What was that like?

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This poem first appeared in Lupercalia.

Photo Credit: Sodom’s destruction; Lot and daughters escapes. Dom von Monreale, Sizilien.