by Jennifer Maloney Undecoded July stripes fence-shadow hieroglyphics on our skin. A slick of sweat puddles in the hollow of your hip, drips across the arch of bone, leaves streaks. Symbols. Your navel winks in dots and dashes— mayday. SOS. The separate length of each brown toe, crowned with a tiny crimson flag— curl, uncurl— semaphore. You turn, roll over, untie the strings, let them fall, red as apple peels that name the one you’ll wed. Your spine unscrolls. I trace its Braille, its beads, stacked like an abacus— and every word you do not say slides—clicks— counts, but what do they add up to? Bathsheba Break into blossom, break into song like you break into houses; stealthy. Don’t let God know you are singing, singing under your breath— keep joy a secret. He’ll try to steal it-- break into your heart, crack it like an egg, perfect, but fragile and weighted with sin. Fit to your hand like a stone made for slinging and breaking the head of a giant. David broke into song for the king but kept the chord secret, broke into the rooftop next door for a wife. Murdered for joy. Broke every rule. The Lord saw his secret, murdered his joy, broke him with judgement; then, forgave. David remained beloved. I think if it comes down to joy or forgiveness, I would rather be secret than saved. I’m left with neither. Only a stone, secret in my heart, perfect for slinging and breaking the head of a giant. Oh Lord of my king, God of this desert, Father of David who fathered my child, you who love and forgive, and kill and forget—I will sing secret what passes for joy: perfect, unfragile, and weighted with hate. What was stolen is gone. What I birth now is stone. I break, but it blossoms, blossoms, blossoms. Ontariana I live here. Up here, in drygrass October, snowflannel Spring. Here, beside a lake so big it can make its own decisions about seasons. That’s all it takes: just size. But they tell me, lose. Get smaller, you’ll be nicer. Easier to digest. Should I want to be eaten? My sex births this whole world. Gets big to do it. Eats, grows babies in bellies that house rivers. Bears continents of flesh, howls, heaves, uses the same muscles we use to shit— and sometimes I really wonder about that. I have lived too long beside a lake that makes its own weather to want to be nice. I am big. Stop trying to digest me. I will choke you. Maybe, lick me instead? Like a cone of creamy frozen custard from a beach-side stand. Do it slow; avoid brain-freeze. Trust me, I’ll go down better that way, if go down, I must. Jennifer Maloney is a poet and fiction writer from Rochester, NY. Find her poetry in Panoply Zine, Memoryhouse Magazine, Aaduna.org, and several other literary magazines and anthologies. Her fiction has appeared in Litro Magazine and Rundelania. Jennifer is the co-editor of the anthology, Moving Images: Poetry Inspired by Film, Before Your Quiet Eyes Publishing, 2021. She is a parent, a partner, and a lucky friend. She is grateful. Every day. For all of it.