“Exorcism” by Tiana Clark

Tiana Clark


Pastor John stood over her body—
shouted scripture as she writhed in the jerk
of undulations that lit her bones on fire. Her eyes
slid to the back of her head slick as marbles. Only
the white jelly of sclera shone between the flutter
of eyelash flicks moored to the mouth of some
netherworld. I stood back in awe and in horror
like the first time I watched porn. Excited, because
we were inside the same heat as each of our hands
stretched forward, flexed as church fans we stroked
the flames of spirit higher and higher. She frothed
her lips to a disc of crema, cried and whimpered
almost like a self-soothing baby. Our finger pads
followed the bars on the pages of a hymnal book.
My youth group spoke as a choir in tongues, our
syllabic utterings were plucked marionette strings
that pulled her limbs to spasms. Pastor John said
she had a demon of lust, a Jezebel Spirit. He said
we had to pray louder and harder, had to touch her
arms and her sides, had to deliver the ember of her
sins from the second crust of hell. But I knew this
girl that twitched on the floor. Sarah was my older
friend. And yes, she made out with boys. And yes,
I saw how the boys looked at her breasts, like the way
they looked at them now when she jiggled—buoyant
as sunny side up eggs. As if I could pierce her yolks
with my praying fingers, bloodletting buttery sex.
She was like me: a girl with no father, a girl that
made God her father, a girl that wanted to be saved,
but mostly loved. She gave her body to greasy boys,
like the way she gave her body to all of us in that
musty cabin outside of the glowing gold buckle
of the Bible Belt for a church retreat.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016


Tiana Clark: “I agree with Terrance Hayes: ‘… everything is a metaphor for sex.’ This poem evolved while unpacking my religious upbringing by converging the sacred and the sensual, the holy and the profane. Ranier Maria Rilke said ‘… the artist’s experience lies so unbelievably close to the sexual, to its pain and its pleasure, that the two phenomena are really just different forms of one and the same longing and bliss.’ When I decided to stop writing out of fear, the mist began to rise when my pen slid across the page. This is why I love to write poetry—because of the steam, that ineffable cloud that embodies the nebulous memories inside our minds.” (web)

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