Martyr Culture

By Steph Wang

it feels wrong to desecrate a holy day but the
heat is unbearable enough that i forget. we find
secondhand communion in the shade: the way
we slot ourselves into the sun, a mouth full of
blackflies, scraping cracks through the dirt.

a ghost lives in my bathtub. i watch you stand
on the rim and flush yourself full of kerosene
to try and expel the rot. there is a sick sense of
absolution amidst this cohabitation. there is a
body growing out of you, edging you out in a
mass of teeth and flesh stretching over bone.

your girlhood ripens that summer. i pluck it for
eve: i am the serpent. my father comes home
bleeding holy water & for the first time there
is a door between us. i spend the next week
picking splinters out of my teeth.

my ribcage is a cathedral that you fit in your
hand and squeeze until soul turns to pulp. you
palm the apex of my shoulder blades & hold
me under the lake & i recite psalms until i run
out of air. our legs are a steeple and there is
fire in my lungs and i think, this is
immortality. i think, do i believe in God if he
doesn’t believe in me?