Sweetness (a sad infuriating little story)

She waves away
raving gnats
from her face
in the sign of the cross.
He says this is a cry
of last rites
as he drags her
into the burning bushes.

The burning bushes
are put out.
Put out by sheaths
of sweet melting skin.

The gnats circle the pyre.
They circle the pyre
of gross innocence.

* * *

The burning bush gnats
are not the same
as the kitchen kind
that swarm the skin
of rotting bananas,
but they are cousins
linked by the draw
to sweet sweat.

She peels the sweating
skin off the browned banana
and tosses it into the pan
(the skin, not the fruit
because Mother said so),
into the pan,
the pan that burns
when ‘hotter than hell,’
Mother would yell
when in the thick of
her own hot-blooded temper.

She feeds the fire
of the hot sizzling oil
with her soft, warm tears
(unintentionally),
and feels the swat
meant for the gnats,
not for her sweet
sticky cheek,
but Mother
in the thick of it
squelches the heat,
she squelches the heat
of her fury and
of the sweet
sweating skin.

She tried waving
away the swatter
but the hand of anger
is swifter than
the resistance
of innocence;
besides, she’s never
in a hurry
because to hurry is a sin –
don’t force the petals
of a flower open,
nor scrape the scab
off the skin.
Light a candle,
say your prayers,
cross your heart,
cross it again
for emphasis.
She crosses until
the crossing becomes
an emblem for everything –
even of irritation
(unintentionally),
as in waving away
raving gnats
from your face.

He stakes his empty
time on it.
His empty strong hands,
on emblems,
on signs,
on invitations
and obedience.

Rather than cutting off
her golden flowing hair
or letting it tear,
she grew it to full length
because Daddy said
that’s what good little girls do.
Bend your knees,
lower your eyes,
except for when
I’m talking to you.

* * *

Sweetness does not
sleep, for sleep
is merely restless rest.
She is: feed for the pyre,
for the groping tongues
of blazing gnats,
and the burning
backhanded slap
of a hand that
so easily
turns the other sweet
sweaty cheek.

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