ISSUE TEN | SPRING 2018
For years, I have loved you in the dark—
your heart pulsing in my throat as I waited
your arrival, weary traveler.
Mama told me very soon I wouldn’t be alone.
Long enough to tell the dark’s madness from my own,
each night, I peeled back my skin to unveil a body
Baba would find use in. I was born to watch over you
& you were born to keep my hands purposeful.
Mama said you are mine. Mine.
Mine to hold & hold
beneath me. You were born
to give what I could not,
so you came into the world
the way miracles do:
a dragging into the light. When you grew
to meet me in the eye,
I don’t remember how it happened:
your little skull was split
open, & this was the first time
Baba heard your blood
moan. You wailed like a salted
prayer— wide & endless—
& I think I cried too,
my small face wet & quivering.
Mama called us into her presence
told us to bite deep into
each other’s flesh. I watched you
kiss flowers into mama’s hands.
I opened my own mouth & red flowers
bloom with the vision of hunger.
ABEL (ON THE HILLTOP)
I confess: Dawn is my favorite animal
because it is the only one I cannot kill.
How its cobalt fur gallops off Baba’s shoulders,
charges across the thin-black horizon
in hooves of gold and grapefruit
to cleave the day open. Every morning,
I feed the chickens, give hay to the goats,
milk the cows, and on and on.
Baba told me to bring home veal for supper.
I would be lying if I said I wanted to do this.
There is no pleasure in it for me.
If it means anything, I won’t be eating it.
I’ve never liked the taste of flesh anyways.
It’s hard to desire anything you’ve made submit.
The trick to slaughter is leading the dumb beast
to a false deliverance. The beast must be kept
calm, fear spoils good meat. Once, mommy swung
a chicken over her head
and the sound of the neck pulled taut to break
makes me flinch at any throat’s repeated failure to reach the sky.
Then, she made me kill a scared lamb
and the meat made everyone sick.
Yet every season they eat and eat
convinced, I think, it somehow makes them the better animal
than the one they consume.
But why protest when it’s just so easy to live this way:
my forehead knelt to Baba’s feet.
I’m disgusting anyways.
All I do is destroy so what lives may keep on destroying.
As Baba commands, I command the animal to follow
and it obeys.
I lead it behind the barn
and it obeys. I stroke its fur, lay its neck down the same stump.
I present a machete.
Its eyes meet my eyes.
I pull the neck towards the sun.
It knows what I know but does not beg.
“It is a truism that history is written by the victors... And men wrote our history”
— Ann Swinfen, “Forgotten, Betrayed, Reviled: The Lost Women of the Bible”
PORTRAIT OF SILENT EMBERS: INVISIBLE & ERASED WOMEN OF HISTORY: THE LINEAGE OF CAIN & ABEL
Keywords: Erasure, Domesticity, Patriarchal Violence (as it pertains to preserving history), Reclamation
In the long arc of Biblical scripture, women’s stories have been lost time and time again to the maw of history. While it was women who herded cattle, tended the garden, cooked, cleaned, gave birth, buried the dead, and were some of the first to spread the Good Word, women have been relegated to nameless creatures and their legacies regarded as nothing more than undercurrent for their male counterparts. One of the most notable forgotten women in the Bible is Lilith, Adam’s first wife. A woman remarked as so repulsive, she is renowned as the mother of all demons. Although remnants of her still exists in Hebrew texts, she is completely erased from any Western iteration of the Bible. Even the very word “history” suggests the work of preserving our foremothers’ stories is under male scrutiny and therefore in constant danger of being devoured. Lilith was held in contempt by Adam for her refusal to submit her body over to him, she was cast out of paradise for the audacity to be a woman independent of male desire. Then Eve is pulled from Adam’s ribs, given a name of sweet harvest and bounty, to become the dagger in her husband’s throat. Bore two “sons”—Cain and Abel—as penitence. Perhaps, then, it is a profound failure of the imagination, that ancient scribes altered the text of Cain & Abel to suit masculine sensibilities. The very notion that Cain and Abel could be daughters, two young girls capable of strenuous pastoral labor which was required to feed the entire world, disrupts the archetypes of women as nothing more than cautionary tales or footnotes.
Thus the poem serves as the beginning of a long restorative text devoted to examining Cain and Abel as farmer and shepherd, but most importantly navigating the fable of two young girls’ with rich, yet deeply troubled interior landscapes.
I.S. Jones is a writer, educator, and music journalist from New York by way of Southern California, and is proudly a child of immigrants. She is a Graduate Fellow with The Watering Hole, BOAAT Writers Retreat, and Callaloo. In 2016, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the Assistant Editor at Voicemail Poetry and Chaparral. Her works have appeared in The Harpoon Review, The Blueshift Journal, SunDog Lit, Matador Review, Wusgood.black, great weather for MEDIA, Anomaly, The Shade Journal, and the Black Voices Series with Puerto Del Sol. She received her MFA in 2016. I.S. is running for Poet Laureate of the Moon.