In summer we bathe ourselves
in saltwater. The first hot day
is holy. We all were baptized
in the harsh North Atlantic;
our swims are numbing, short,
sacred. The seawater we have
swallowed in clips of laughter
is our communion. The stench
of brine and black seaweed,
an orthodox incense. We form
a covenant with mud and salt
and brackish wind. We scrape
our limbs scaling sandy rock
walls, an offering. Our sun-
drenched skin, red and ruined,
a public sacrament.
I close my eyes and I am fourteen
and my sandal is broken so I go barefoot,
arms entangled with
my closest friend, traipsing the few blocks
back to her house. The stretch of
white-hot road crucifies my wet feet
until we reach her yard and collapse
on the cool green lawn, bask in runny sunlight,
listen as our lilting pulses sing hymns,
consumed by the exhaustion following
such primal and wild worship.
They said I was formed from the rib and flesh
of man—they tried to take the credit
for original birth, then they turned around
and burdened me with original sin.
They said I am the embodiment of every woman
ever to live, a blueprint of femininity.
The truth is I am not miraculous or wicked
or guilty or chaste. The truth is my entrance
into this young earth, like everyone else’s,
caused my mother agony, and way later
under the apple tree I figured
I should remain alive so it wasn’t all for nothing.
So I ate an apple and I don’t care
what they dream up to do to me for it.
I know they will neuter and bruise and silence
me, or at least they will try their best.
I know they will cling onto it forever,
bury it low and let it seep into the soil:
divine transgression, eternal punishment
of woman for my fundamental failure,
my compromised nature. I will be beautiful
for them, give them sex, and they will berate me for it.
I will birth sons who hate me. I will die for it,
a slow and sweaty sacrifice. I will never really
win. I know this but I will refuse to apologize
for succumbing to stupid fruit, I will come back
again and again and live forever just to spite them,
just to reclaim this established world as weeds
reclaim concrete through the cracks
and careless rain washes away city blocks.
HALEY WHITE: I am a 22-year-old senior at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and will soon be graduating with a B.A. in Psychology and English. I have been writing since I was seven years old, and I have equal love for writing poetry and fiction. My poems are often influenced by my experience with mental illness and the general anxieties that come with being close to the end of college, living in a world that seems on the constant edge of ruin. I can be found on Instagram (@haley__white) and Twitter (@haley_white26).