Header artwork by Sugar Smallhouse

chrissy martin

THE GOSPEL OF HELPING

It goes without saying that I am a servant to this ground. I tithe to a church that makes me bow at my God’s feet, wash my men’s. An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones. Bowed at the foot of my bed, I lay down the Bible and reach for the other books squirrelled underneath. I read about bomb dogs, and I like the idea of them. How, to keep the dogs from being discouraged, their handlers plant bullet shells for them to find. Tell them how great of a job they’re doing. Horses, the book says, want to be broken and I have to wonder who was polled for this. Online, someone posts a picture of a dog on a hiking trail wearing a backpack, smiling. It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him. Some comments say dogs feel helpful when being given something to carry, it gives them a sense of purpose. This delights me. This hurts my heart, this ugliness of helping. Some comments say that dogs can’t smile and I like this even less. The dog in the picture carries Slim Jims and trail mix, Gatorade bottles on each side like rockets that might propel it up the mountain. Might leave the owner stomach empty and slippery with sweat, a rot setting into the bones of his tired feet.


INSTRUCTIONS FOR ABSOLUTION

I eat my heart out like good food.

Lick the sticky wrappers of cinnamon buns,

Boil to a syrup juice from just-ripe kiwis,

Drink through a red striped straw

And wash down the fuzzy bits of peel.

They rub the bumps of my throat

Raw like the skin on my mother’s legs.

The rubbing together trying to keep warm,

The boniness of her shins catching one another,

The skin tearing on the floor she sleeps on.

I sit warm in my home scrubbing circles

In the hardwood with lemon pledge,

Cleaner burning the cracks in my knees.

Stop just before the shine. The more time

I spend with something the more it becomes a mirror.

Once, the two of us lined ice cubes on a plate,

Draped them with a long piece of dental floss,

And sprinkled with salt to stick. Watered to a fog,

Our new diamonds. I picked the whole thing up

Carefully and tied it around my mother’s neck,

A collar of goose bumps from the cold.

I tried to make it glitter with clumps of sugar,

But it melted too quick against the thick bones of her chest.


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Chrissy Martin is a PhD candidate at Oklahoma State University and a recent graduate from the Poetry MFA program at Columbia College Chicago. She also holds a BA in English from The University of Akron with minors in Creative Writing, Women’s Studies, and Popular Literature and Film. She is the Poetry Editor for Arcturus magazine and has previously worked as an editor for Columbia Poetry Review and RHINO Poetry. Her work has appeared in Amazon's Day One, (b)OINK, LUMINA and Small Po[r]tions. You can find her at chrissymartinpoetry.com