Listen:

Beloved, last night I doused us in good bourbon,
struck a match between our teeth, slid the lit head
lip to chest, throat zippered open and spilling.
Our union demands a sacrifice. Take my masks—
my wretched, immaculate children. Sharp smiles
bored by cavities. Braids thick with hair slashed off
lovers as they slept. The masks grew limbs and danced,
so last night, to the fire—plank pushed, cackling
as they bubbled and split. Then dreamless dark.
Then mercy, somehow, morning reached for me.
Sun found us swaddled in sweat-through sheets.
Gauze and salve while night wore off. O body,
always healing despite me. O body, twin spy
tasked against my plot to rush the dying,
guardian of the next world’s sweets, yes,
I’ll lick this salt. Yes, I’ll wait our turn
because today, we hold hands, mother
each other, bathe in warm coconut oil.
Our union, our long baptism. O body,
all I forced you to know of thirst. Yes
body, you are owed a whole lake. Yes
body, I’ll kiss our wrists, hold them
to our ears and spend our days
losing to the waves.

Illustration: Ansellia Kulikku.

Kemi Alabi

Kemi Alabi is a writer and cultural strategist based in Chicago. Their poems and essays appear in The RumpusCatapultBlack Warrior ReviewThe GuardianWinter Tangerine, and elsewhere. Kemi leads Echoing Ida, a Forward Together community of Black women and nonbinary writers, and reads poems for Muzzle Magazine.