by Jennifer Maloney


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— 

The separate length 
of each brown toe, crowned 
with a tiny crimson flag— 
curl, uncurl—
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  
counts, but

what do they add up to?


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. 

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. 
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,


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.