Janna Grace

John Kerry Isn’t the Anti-Christ

"You're the best person I know
with the most hate-filled beliefs"
he wrote in my yearbook, with a hope for my heart in the years to come

                                              (I knew he was gay and liked him anyway).
But I was still a child
soldier, at 18—
trying to decide whether to go General
or desert.

15 years, Mark Twain's best prescription and one cross shaped scar

                                              (I gave myself in my sleep)
I thank your God I got out.

The demons don't wait in make-believe rafters anymore
to alight on my chest when I try to wake up,
fat claws pressing sweat into wine

                                              (of your Eternal Kind)

because the dreams have rearranged themselves
like my teeth, in perfect rows that don't fall out anymore
                could                                                  leave

                               like trauma


                                                                                           are brought back together
to be put to rest.

They say it's the brain that represses when it cannot process
but I know—
I know that deep down all of your organs
are unsettled

                                              (that's why you throw up so much and all the time).

They shift a bit when you recite dead phrases
your brain can't autopsy away.

And now when I wake each morning
I don't need to free a dead man's name from beneath my lips
to draw a full breath.

It doesn't matter anymore if it started when my grandmother's father used his hands to hold her
up by her tiny throat
as she knelt to pray to a Father more terrifying than her own
on the nights she saw him stumbling down the street

and didn't have time to   s    c    a    t    t    e    r.

                                              (is that why I never told about the boy who pet his
                    penis with his own hands every day at me on the bus?)

But, he never learned to read, she says

                                              (A man's rage breeds in shame)

It makes sense - she insists
sliding rosary beads between her own thin fingers

                                              (Our strings of ammunition, our bullet bandoleer, our
                    rose-scented pearls of peace)

His fingers were really only cruel when they had been shoveling amber
liquid to his mouth that bubbled through his blood and reminded him
he was never good


is enough.

                                              I finally told about the boy

and put down my weapons.

I am not a man and my hands will not spread.

To my abandoned battalion I now write:
"You don't have to keep shoving
your fingers down your throat.
There will be nothing left to come up
if you could just let your beliefs go
match your Master's heart."

Janna Grace lives in a half-glass barn and her work has appeared in The Bitchin' Kitsch, Plastik Magazine, and Red Eft Review, among others. She has pieces forthcoming in Eunoia and Horla and she teaches writing at Rutgers University. Janna is the editor of Lamplit Underground and her debut novel will be published through Quill Press in 2019.
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