A Geology Lesson for Troubled Girls
Yes, the wall is flowstone, wet with the breath of a man.
Going palm by palm, you might mistake it for the teeth
of a beast or drowned ribbons underhand. I know
you’ve heard the curse before: a fool’s balance
claims the girl who listens to the dark. But trust
there is a cloak of ink and that lantern splashes light.
Call her a midwife, a confessor, just a woman with a rule,
She comes day after day, and she traces your fingertip
on a seam so black it’s blue, a seam so black it’s blue.
Engage with shadow. Play with Plato. Hold up
a mirror in a cave. How could this wall be water
and go back again?
Bible says He went to the well, drank a whore’s warm water.
Later, with Thomas’s fingers in his side, he poured more warm water.
You wept in your cold cradle. When lashes caught in your eyes,
Mother touched each feathered petal, poured warm water.
Blue Ridge tatters the skyline to lace. Beneath shale and unicyte
the Maury ripples through its veins to bring the core warm water.
Mosquitoes pricked thighs and drew out your sweetest part.
In days the boil swelled to store warm water.
Your wife stitched for three months a Double Wedding Ring.
In three minutes I led you beneath the patches and took your warm water.
I tore the stillhouse down, cracked the copper kettle, let flow
the yeast-sugar, but hid for you in the floor warm water.
Blot from the annals the fallow time when fields cracked, faulted,
my lantern’s spill. Forget the miles you ran for warm water.
This night I could take a step alone down a road
in West Virginia and lead a thousand silent Adams
out of Eden. I know the way.
I fished lingerie from out behind a laundromat drier
with a wire hanger at seventeen, belted the thing,
called it vintage, and shook it in front of God
and everybody. I traced stolen make-up around my eyes
in the tiny mirrors of drugstore aisles, I gnawed
on hipbones and made the same promises
to millionaires and penniless men.
I bruised them.
But when I look down at my hands,
I see stitches in the skin: I was made,
made from mistakes, and the flesh
is as much a mirror as a quilt is;
it stains with tears and it goes dun with sweat,
each wrinkle folds without rest. Thank God
you choose to close your eyes and wrap yourself
in warmth. I’ll write you a thousand pages
before I die; each lie more honest than the last.
Hold my glance. You’re no Adam,
and I’m no Mary, Eve, or Magdelene,
but take a step alone down a road, write home,
and thank God each wrinkle folds
When I was a little girl, my family went camping at Yokum's Vacationland near Seneca Rocks in Pendleton County, West Virginia. There, you could sleep in a giant cement teepee and buy helgrammites for fishing bait. I remember an old general store, and my parents let my sister and I pick out any two souvenirs each. We chose matching canteens and "Indian" feathers to clip into our hair. We longed for a rite of passage just like the legend of Princess Snowbird, beautiful and strong enough to climb to the summit with water for our parents and ourselves. At the lookout, we all ate Vienna sausages from the can and drank from our canteens, which had bounced on our hips the whole hike.
Andrea Null is a schoolteacher in Charleston, West Virginia. Her writing has appeared in the Oxford American, Shenandoah, Fanzine, and the West Virginia Encyclopedia. She is a graduate of Washington and Lee University.