The physician said it would be brief, like lust.
Like whatever leaves sages folding their hands in resignation,
blighted by insatiable want.
I was hunger and swelling, counting the tiles on the ceiling
when you entered, bearing hydrangeas.
You said they were for your dead mom,
but we both knew you are nothing
if not an incurable liar.
Lore holds that the emperor of Japan once fell in love
with a commoner. The two were entwined
when the emperor rushed off to see after business,
abandoning his love. Months passed.
The emperor, realizing his folly, sent cartfuls of
blue hydrangeas to the girl’s family in atonement.
Perhaps Maggie Nelson
would have something lovely to say about that.
You have neglected me, too;
my veins dry, my back torqued into a crooked arch, my gut
knotted—all i could stand was to shut my eyes
and imagine the petals.
I was counting the devils in hell
when you told me you loved me.
We were arm in arm walking
down a crumbling chicago street—
larks warbling, tiny stones pebbling up out of the concrete
and into my shoes—
when I tripped over a gash in the pavement.
As cliché would have it,
we had been inseparable since meeting
at a cafe equidistant from our apartments.
You hung your hat.
You bought me a coffee.
Weeks zipped by.
We assumed the positions fate had laid out for us;
You the stable, retiring knight,
I, the passionate spendthrift who can’t grok the word no.
So there we were, twain
when the road split and you strolled blithely on,
your dimples refracting the sunlight.
I stared into the chasm; the sulfur was liquid,
the devils were dancing. The flames licked my ankles.
“I love you,” you said, and I answered: 647.
I awoke to find the hydrangeas at my bedside,
their petals crisping into a bile-brown around the edges.
I was counting the minutes to sunrise
when they told me the baby was breech and tinged blue.
Said I cradled her head to my breast.
Held her in my arms, shivering.
Said I shook. And rocked. And keened.
I don’t remember.
Only the silence. Days later,
Satan has a twiggy new bandmate he’s fucking, called
I bet satan loves blue hydrangeas.
Bet the devil is a boy with a floor mattress—
takes lovers in cafes and pours them out:
six weeks flat.
Satan left his baby stillborn
in a university hospital, blanched white.
As I was kissing each cold baby finger,
Satan phoned to say it was over.
One morning, I watched him cuffing his shirtsleeves
and knew he would swallow me headfirst
then wipe his lips, grinning.
He called off the hounds as I approached,
stamping his cloven hooves.
I clamped my eyes shut, but it was too late:
I had already devoured the seeds.
Jabulile Mickle-Molefe is a genderfluid mother, wife, and diviner. Their latest work is forthcoming in Vagabond City Lit and Alaska Quarterly Review. They co-edit Anthology Mag and rep Ohio. Find them on Twitter at @jmicklemolefe.