“Parting Ritual” by Soonest Nathaniel

Soonest Nathaniel


When father died,
they shaved my mother’s head to the scalp,
then they forced her to bathe
with the algae-green water
gathered from rinsing father’s corpse.
Six yards of white cloth
sewn into a mourning gown,
mother wore a smile,
it was more lethal than a frown.

They forced her to eat,
they said she will need strength,
strength to look the dead in the eyes 
and confess to lies,
lies that she ate her husband and his other children.
Hers was a feast of worms,
and though sadness filled her stomach,
she struggled to eat the maggots 
wriggling from the ears, eyes, mouth, and orifices
of decayed justice. 

They let her walk the meadows on barefoot,
father’s grave had been dug at the end of the grove.
They claim she crossed the thin line 
between apples and snakes,
so at the node where two positions meet,
she will light seven candles, 
then circle the grave with chalk. 

For 90 days,
they confined her to a room, 
the “other room,”
where every limp comes to pose as a patriot,
where every screamer thinks himself a prophet,
and every crook claims that he is a statesman. 
But after all the lechers and mourners go home,
my mother will rise and make love to silence.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018


Soonest Nathaniel: “From the first time I was told that the world was created from words, I began to seek the power inherent in well-stringed letters, just so I could create new worlds of my own. Poetry availed me the answer as to the potency of well-knitted verbs, and once I discovered what poems can do, I set out to fashion new worlds, which can be inhabited by the teeming millions of curious souls.”

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