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Destiny O. Birdsong 

I was raised Christian, but I strayed away for a long time, mostly because what I had been taught to believe about God didn’t leave a lot of room for myself: my complicated sexuality, my imperfections, and my beliefs about love, marriage, gender roles, and self-care. In the middle of my return, I’ve also had to watch other Christians use biblical scripture to promote homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and Trumpism. In the process of reconciling myself to my faith and unraveling my own subjectivities and desires, I’ve become fascinated with taking scripture back—at least for myself anyway. “ode” is one of a series of poems that uses the Bible to discuss physical intimacy. There’s some great material about sex and masturbation in Song of Songs, but that felt like the path of least resistance for me. Also, as an assault survivor, I’ve been thinking about masturbation as a form of self-healing. I’d love to say that the last lines—which allude to one of Jesus’s miracles in the New Testament—were deliberate, but they really came to mind because I’d heard a sermon on the text a few months before. I was as surprised as any reader when they appeared, but they felt like such a perfect ending, and they speak to my own work of divorcing satisfaction from the presence of men—or of anybody else for that matter. The title was also an afterthought. I felt that “ode to my hand” was so squarely on the nose, but the final title speaks to my belief that I am responsible for my own joy; furthermore, anything can be penetrative and, under the right circumstances, transformative. If I believe in the Immaculate Conception, or in being filled with the Holy Spirit (or other, less divine entities), then I can believe this to be true for other things. The poem was originally published by The Shallow Ends on March 1, 2018

< draft >

ode to my hand


pill crusher // needle pusher
scalp greaser // coconut oiler
of legs and the untouched space
beneath breasts // butcher //
baker // dishwater maker// 
and if ten thousand ever fall
at my side //
hitching post
of God’s great
grace
bottle shaker // signal-taker
everything that has ever ruined us
passed through // so too
have the cures // you raised me
from the dead // sinister digits
there’s no single right way // 
to push
deep into me and pull honey
from the lioness’ mouth //
your
palm grazing
her grizzle //
how the swarm
quiets for a moment //
the swollen
areolas
spread their own vein-
webbed fronds // oh girl // who else
rides me
safely through Jerusalem
unsaddled //
on her simple back
or massages my slippery feet with her
whorled hair //
every gland exhaling
hosannas // I’ll never let
your tunic drag
the ground of want again
we can have each other
and live // Lazarus
unraveling
his spool
of silences
as the sisters blush like nipples
seaspray wetting the gauze
of lonely // savior // leading me
always & over water
to shore

< REVISION >

ode to my penis

 

pill crusher // needle flusher
coconut oiler of legs
& the untouched space // beneath
breasts // butcher // baker //
bathwater maker
and when ten thousand fall
at my side // & the phone
goes dry // you are //
my hitching post
of God’s // great // grace //
bottle shaker // chalice faker
everything that ever poisoned us
passed through // so too
have the cures // you raised me
from the dead // sinister digits //
if there’s // a right way //
to stroke raw honey from the lioness’s
mouth // you stumble // but find it
every time // palm // grazing
her grizzle // how the swarm
quiets // for a moment //
the pupiled areolas
dilate // their vein-
webbed fronds // oh girl // who else
rides me safely // through // Jerusalem
// unsaddled //on her simple back
or massages // my slippery feet with her
whorled hair // I’ll never
let your tunic drag //
the ground of want // again //
we’ll have each other //
and live // like Lazarus //
unraveling his spool // in the sisters’
stunned silence // death oils slipping
from his skin // savior // you track
mirrored light into // my
wilderness // a little spit //
a little mud //
at the first touch
i saw men // monstrous //
as marching trees //
then // after a second touch //
// just // trees //

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