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. Endarkenment 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.
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.