Anything But an Elegy
for Debra

In five days, 
they will split her open. 
They will sponge 
the round hardness of her belly, 
smear it with antiseptic goop.
Someone will say “scalpel”
and the silver will appear in—God, 
let it be a gentle, well-practiced hand.
It will meet the brown, fresh-shaved
blanket of her skin, it will press
and she will spill.
I remember her bleeding, once,
when we were children,
how she came to me, her big sister,
her face crumpled in pain.
Forgive me, God, 
for being careless with that trust:
I was curious and cruel
as children are.
I took her to the kitchen, poured
a white avalanche of salt
into my palm and onto her 
raw and tender knee. Forgive me,
God, my gleeful fingers.  
Forgive the pins lifting her scabs
in the days after, as I played
doctor, told her the cunning lie:
You have to hurt it ‘til you use up all
the hurt. Let this white clad,
white woman’s hands meet my sister’s
flesh with _____ with what? God,
I don’t know what to ask but this:
Let her be healed. Let her live.


Slowly, I gave them up:
the pews and confessions,
the stained-glass cathedrals,
the saints and their beloved
stories, the burning cities,
the floods, the heterosexist ark,
the wrath followed by rainbow 
promises and olive branch keys,
the old men slinking into the tents
of their daughters and maids.
I left for Tamar and Sarah 
and Lot’s two virgin daughters,
and the underaged Mary, and the other
one I learned only as whore 
in spite of everything she did 
after she was not stoned for a sin 
she could not have committed 
alone. I broke myself out 
of shame’s sepulcher, am walking 
toward what I pray is light. 
God, may I find you there.

Featured image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Lauren K. Alleyne is author of Honeyfish and Difficult Fruit, and co-editor of Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry. Her award-winning work appears in venues such as The Atlantic, The New York Times, Tin House and Ms Muse, among others. She is assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University.