My darling, I’m gutted. I could ring out my intestines
like a dishrag, squeeze it into ropes and hang myself
from the ceiling. Oh, to be breathless and floating
a few inches off the ground, to have relief at last.
Darling, please listen. I would rather die than let go
of what’s already inside me. I try to avoid my body
but it’s always being held at night. By the carpet,
the mattress, the dirt. There are two hands
pressed around my throat and I can’t tell
if they’re mine. Limbs can be phantoms,
why can’t guts? Have your insides ever turned
against you to rob you of your life? This is a stick up.
Empty yourself now. I’ll do whatever you ask
darling, except letting go. If you let me keep it
all I won’t eat anymore, I won’t sleep, I’ll stay
up all night keeping watch for you. I’ll carve
out my stomach in the bathtub,
sculpt it into a vase that digests
every flower I’ll gather for you and only you.
I’m a fair sacrifice. Steel tools pass in and out of me
like parishioners through the threshold
of a heavy door. My flesh holds too much
that I cannot see. Forgive me if I flinch, clench,
close. My flesh holds too much that I cannot see,
and I know better than to pray
for safety. Forgive me if I’d rather turn to stone
than cradle what’s vulnerable. I know better
but pray for me anyway. I know I’m cruel, selfish,
vulnerable. Forgive me, I’ll swallow you like a stone
to sink faster into a pocket of river. Once, I wasn’t real.
I couldn’t be cruel. I had no one to forget.
I wasn’t yet a crumpled prayer
sinking into a puddle in a church parking lot.
Suddenly I was a stranger with a stranglehold.
Stringing beads of blood on a tether
she couldn’t ignore. Now I’m real
and I can’t forget. Forgive me for being born
against a heavy door. I was once a stranger
tangled in curtains bleeding down the walls.
A stranger extracted with steel. A fair sacrifice.
ALYSSA FROEHLING received her MFA from Ohio State in 2021 and her poems appear in Black Warrior Review, Puerto Del Sol, The Pinch, and elsewhere. She is a former poetry editor of The Journal and is currently an Assistant Poetry Editor of Sundog Lit.