On the day my friend texts me that she is crying about our impossible take-home exam,
I text back only wall of silence, because academic integrity is the only integrity I have.
What I really want to text her is I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,
though I haven’t called myself a Christian in years, because scripture is as automatic
as brushing my teeth. I stop myself only when I remember that she is Jewish,
or Jewish partly, and I think quoting the New Testament at a Jewish person might be
even though my friend loves C.S. Lewis and was oddly upset
when Anne Rice came out swinging against Christianity in 2012. Anne Rice,
who was the original Stephenie Meyer—when I watch New Moon with my friend,
she tells me it is just for the cinematography. I know better. When those men
become wolves, I see her hunger to live between two states, not Indiana
where she lives now and Ohio where has she left another life, but to live
on the cusp of transforming. She wants new skin. I want the colorless skin of the dead.
In a movie I watched as a kid, a woman tried to scratch HELP into the back of a watch,
but was thwarted just before she finished L and the P’s one breast, so that it looked like
It looked like hell. When I was thirteen, I scratched HEl into my calf
because I had forgotten how to pray. It was as simple as that. In New Moon,
the suicidal vampire believes he has no soul, and I sympathize with the way he cannot
When the movie ends, I tell my friend that I like the cinematography too,
that I like the soundtrack. These are safe things to like. The Bible
doesn’t say anything about lesbians I told my mother once, but even so,
I hardly date now. I’m surprised at the things I still believe. Because I’m afraid
it’s the Mark of the Beast, I will not microchip my dog. Because my church
taught that Christ cannot resurrect the cremated, I promise myself I will not die
until I can afford a proper burial. Even an atheist could see
that this exam is not of God. I am trying to finish it as I sit on my air mattress
eating Doritos beneath my hemp GOOD JUJU banner, and am remembering,
because I have not showered, the way my cousin’s mother used to call the vulva body,
the way she told my cousin not to let anyone touch her body, so that my cousin shrank
from all human touch for years. My own body smells like bread. On the day
my friend texts me because she is afraid of failing, I want to tell her this.
I want to tell her how I want to curl into that dark odor and sleep.
Audrey Gradzewicz was born in Buffalo, New York. Her poems have been published by, or are forthcoming from, Southern Indiana Review, Thank You for Swallowing, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Poets.org, Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, Lockjaw, Passages North, and Smartish Pace.