THEN, A PAPER DOLL
by Megan Denton Ray
What followed taught me something
of strength: the cold of his leather seats,
how my bare skin yelped, yielded
to a forceful hand—coffee
was cupped in it ten minutes
prior. Then, the dexterity of February.
This young man from Johnson Bible College,
this hush-hush, this unutterable
crooked cross. My delicate shivering body,
a tiny perfect thing, a paper doll for thieves
to ram at the hips and chip like timber, red
as the fruit of stolen bodies, stolen heat.
My ichthus necklace, thrown on the floorboard,
never made it to the backseat. Breastbone,
backbone, floating ribs—he said, this is the day
the Lord has made, and in that moment,
I lowered myself into a peony bush
and found Jesus there, a simple village
full of firesides and dusty, gaping mouths
scouring the bottom of the dark for something
sweet. This isn’t a sad story. I am now the holytide,
the rawness, the soprano at the kitchen sink. I am
the ripe pomegranate splitting its seams, a little bigness,
molasses in a pond by the edge of the woods. I am
sticky as he puts himself back into his pants.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Megan Denton Ray is the author of Mustard, Milk, and Gin—winner of the 2019 New Southern Voices Poetry Prize (Hub City Press, March 2020). She holds an MFA from Purdue University. Her work has appeared recently or will soon in Poetry, The Sun, The Adroit Journal, Passages North, and elsewhere. She currently lives and teaches in Tennessee.