In the cloister, God loomed like the flu:
a kissing game, God the dare-you-do.
But real sickness arrived like an invitation
slipped under the door, so for Teresa
devotion was easy as eating with a dirty spoon—
the divine as germ, fear as germination.
Her body had never seemed so valuable—
faith was a tumor turned treasure:
She opened her mouth and there was God
like pearl under her tongue, God like a diamond
in the cave of her throat, God flickering
like a goldfish beneath the surface of her voice.
We don’t know the vessels we are
until illness empties us. Prayer works
this way, too—self-surgery. Each night
she reached inside and plucked out the divine.
Rochelle Hurt is the author of two poetry collections: In Which I Play the Runaway (2016), winner of the Barrow Street Book Prize, and The Rusted City, published in the Marie Alexander Series from White Pine Press (2014). Her work has been included in Best New Poets 2013 and she’s been awarded literary prizes from Crab Orchard Review, Arts & Letters, Hunger Mountain, and Poetry International. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in journals like Crazyhorse, Black Warrior Review, and The Southeast Review. She is a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati and Assistant Editor for the Cincinnati Review.
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