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Michelle Reale is the author of several poetry collections, including Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press, 2019), Blood Memory (Idea Press, 2021), and In the Year of Hurricane Agnes (Alien Buddha Press, 2022). She is the Founding and Managing Editor for both OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing and The Red Fern Review.


Trigger Warning

There is an old saying, but I will be damned if I can remember what it was. There are offshoots of rare plants that I would like to call by their scientific names, but nature itself abhors labels and so I adjust. Years have passed, and I recall the scent of frankincense candles that smelled like Christmas, burning down to stumps in a damp church, the smell of wet funereal flowers that tickled my gag reflex and occluded my heart. Your face, a mask of purity: untested, unbothered, unalive. I wanted to call everything God, but there are visionaries on every corner who have already staked their claim, and I am always late and unwelcome. Common decency dictates that I cede, go back to starching the altar cloths and spit polishing the monstrance. I give the priest a wake up call and drop an envelope with a paltry offering in the long-handled basket that passes in front of me. The difficulty of genuflection has a purpose—my mother advises me to offer up the pain for world peace, but as we speak, at least thirteen countries are either burning their own people or going after yours, and my knees feel like individual pits of molten lava. Those who bear arms also plant flags in the loamy blood soaked earth and put words into the mouths of their citizenry. Sing praise! Change your meandering course! Respective efforts deserve recognition. I can be a strega in a month of Sundays. Ring your bell. Call it a day.

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