Balm (excerpt)

by T.A. Noonan

I. Ishtar
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            oil warms
one month of radiation
            crowns shine by moonlight
                        & a crescent-shaped scar
where my daughter's hand comes back
                        the initiate dresses herself

IV. Inanna
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my second language
                                    to silence
            plainsong of
the breast
wind over reeds
                                                the mother sings
                        stirring honey

X. Aphrodite
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clad in little trees
                        steel slipped beneath linen
& skin
            her ankle a forest of kisses
                                    healer's hands
her breath on my ear
            shaping the sign for remission
the cure for winter

XV. Kali
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cut here & see
                        cut here & see
            how much woman can live
how black my skin with blood
inside half a woman
                                    who stands on another's back

XVIII. Demeter
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& what of my daughter
who seeks me in a field
                                                unsure of her own skin
            one eye cast back
to a clump of daisies
                        fingers searching the dark pulp for pits

XIX. Parvati
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                        tilt your face toward mine
this is a woman's jaw
                                                it cannot be held open by force
remember you are annoited by queens
remember you are your mother's voice
this is the last place we will speak so freely
                        when the breads left altarside stale, we shall forget our tongues

XXV. Lilith
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slice an apple sideways to reveal the star
            a cherry-blossom space
                        my husband believed the pale inner fruit
            should stay pale             outer color an estimation
how sugar could burst in his mouth like a supernova
            my secret
                        what browns so quick is what surrounds
nothing fades when nothing is there

XXVI. Shekhinah
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            no pink in a tiger's eye
                        flash of asbestos rainbow
each iris spark   a layer of pressure
speaking what the mouth cannot
            born dark & poisonous
                        still I rise in shimmers