McLeod Logue is an MFA candidate and poet at UNC Wilmington. Her work has appeared in The Nashville Review, The Shore Poetry, and elsewhere. Instagram: @am_logue
WHAT COMES NEXT (WORM POEM)
Do you think Mom ever ate a worm, think she ever tasted dirt? I know I put it in my mouth because you said I wouldn’t. The worm. I found it hiding under soil, dark and damp, and blind. It never stood a chance. I could feel its life hot in my hand and then soft against my throat. I swallowed hard. I think it still lives in my belly, a defiant souvenir, to prove I was capable of cruelty. I know I tasted earth before butter, flattening my life onto a taut string, asking only the important questions like why and who and what now? I know I landed in dirt more often than not, suburb baby with a mouth that needed good washing. Soap wouldn't do, sometimes you have to make things dirtier to make them clean. I know I lay face down in the earth before I was whole. My body remembers the feeling of chest flat, spilling out the sides, caving in the soil. I know she hated me dirty, hated the way I tracked everything into the house, lawn and bug and anything fertile. She hated the way I let chunks of dirt fill my nose, my mouth, grains tasting the side of my tongue, rolling back again, down like beads. I don’t know. Which is to say, if she’s anything like me, if she raised me in the perfect image of what comes first, how could she never have been facedown in the earth, waiting for something to move, waiting for what comes next.
Mama said my birthmark was an angel kiss, a red patch to remind me that God loves everyone. It was meant to be a place where I was touched before birth, before her hands reached me and we were one body at the core. I took communion with my head down, arms crossed and let the bread dissolve on my tongue. I was on my knees for ages, praying He’d lift his finger and let my skin recover. In church, we sang in unison, all straight lax faces and an organ. I waited for the beats we’d breathe together, a congregation like the womb. Jesus rose every year and I wore white to please her. When I knelt to drink the wine, the cup slipped from above, blood of Christ purple against my birthmark. The congregation held its breath, organ thumping along, hollow in my eardrums. Mama stripped me down to frilly socks, and laid the white dress flat on the dining room table, squirted bleach from plastic bottle, the nozzle honking like a strangled goose. She scrubbed the cloth with flat palms until the stitching came loose. I cried, naked, my arms covering my chest, wondering if she’d tried to do the same to me.
We slept in the front room, closest to the ocean where we could still breathe saltwater in our sleep. The way his chest rose and fell through the night was my own current, the kind with teeth that pulled you in, gripped your hair, left you gasping for air. It was a complete love, one with a soul of its own. He slept in fits, the moon guiding him from his side of the bed to mine, head on my pillow, body buzzing. He absorbed my heat, led me to a cool patch to drink. It was as if even in our dreams we were pulled together, catching each other like a parachute in midair, dipping our toes into clouds. His heavy breath mixed with the waves crashing outside, muddled the cars rolling on the rocky path. He was the whole world in one room, the sun stretching its fingers across the duvet, blinking over his lips, his hair, his wide back. We rose like the tide being pulled back, smelled the heat baking through sand sprinkled in the carpet. We were hair and skin and sex for the ages, everything moving in one, as if we’d never spent a moment apart. As if the ocean had been scrubbed clean, swallowed the pitchers of moon, drained empty and spilled forth to fill our room, shaken like a snow globe.
Throw me in the deep end all arms and water, body blending with blue and fear rising up in bubbles, hot air like blood blisters caught in nostril caverns. Drop me like a stone, warping water to make room for flat feet and breath held like a lifeline. Let me wade in, the pool dragging me down, the horizon line hiking up my mouth, my nose, trailing me with careful touch and everything brushed cold. Teach me to stand with toe tips brushing the molding, my eyes meeting the horizon. I watch water wiggle away from air, foaming at the merge like a kiss. Perfectly still, I let my legs drift up, arms reach out like a tent, head bobbing back. I turned over, stiff, face to face with the tiles at the bottom— they squirmed, blinked back at me, let bubbles out too. I was water. Enough of me to be blue if I wanted, baby fat buoyancy and finally a moment to be still, to be quiet. Then a crane lifting me out of the water like god. The first breath of air was bang snaps thrown against the sides of my lungs, TV static behind pupils. I lay face up on the concrete, the sun bearing down and nothing had ever made me feel so alive.
We watched her at night, with screen tired eyes, blue light and sagging postures, she shrunk under the blanket weight of dark. We were invisible, unyielding, wide eyes on the opposite end of a long lens. She moved in circled riptides, the ones we unlearned so our spines didn’t weave cross stitching. She was wildfire etching against gelatin, no smoke in sight, only pink dawn barging towards glass. She had peanut butter fingers, everything caught in cement and there was no compass to mark where we ended and she began. Her pixels dilated like fat mosquitos and we drank her in long sips, breathing in her glow. We were parasitic, scopophilic, feeding from the big screen our bodies one, a tiny green pixel centered on her laptop’s edge. She stared blankly into the void before her, detached, eyes drifting apart and neck side bent, a long laugh born from stiff vocal cords, exposed teeth flashing from the folds of her mouth. She broke the silence and looked back at us. Before the green light clicked black and everything was dark, dark dark.