original [sin]

In ancient Greece, for all her heroes, for Medea    ...    water meant death.
— Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones

i poured a bowl of cereal,
threw the empty box in the
trash can. granddaddy pulled

the box from the trash,
poured the crumbs into a
bowl, then doused the sand

in milk. he looked down at the
bowl, murmuring about how
he had survived the depression. told

a story about asking for hot water
at colored diners, how he would
pour ketchup in cups to make soup.

this was how
i first learned i am
             wasteful.


 


i would stand in the bathroom
with my mother. would ask her
why the water in the bowl was

red. she would tell me she
had eaten beets. i suppose
i was too young to learn

the truth, milkflowers
spill petals red.


 


in my catholic school of fish,
we took a beautifully wrapped box,
passed it around the class,

unwrapping it piece by piece.
afterwards it was cleverly
explained that the box is

a girl’s virginity

the gift we give our husbands.

& who wants a toy that has
already been opened? half
the joy is in untying the string.

this is how i was taught
that at my very core, i am
              ungrateful.

 


i met someone recently,
in an irish bar, who told me
it’s about knowing what i need.

he said later
what you need
is a wife.

that night i prayed to god for just a man
and not a man that trails the woe

& maybe this is why god serves me
wakes of milkman and tea cake

a lip service of sorts
at hand.

 


maybe this is how i end up
throwing good things away:
phd
husband
stepdaughter
stepson
a little tiny baby
              unborn

locked them all in flooding
house with tearful grin.

this is how you
come to know you are
               unclean.

 


at times i smell of rain,
blouse damp with the
cloud’s breast milk,

this stomach a
sloshing bowl of
watery swish.

i curse the phantom belly
moon, can still hear the
sound of  you in still water.

                            the wind begins to push
a heavy rain, drops spill from
every crevice of the flower.

& then suddenly,
the rain begins to pour.

it always all ways
asks for forgiveness.

a ghost kneels in me,
              asks to be spared.

More Poems by Alison C. Rollins