R. Cassandra Bruner

Of the Night

I.
I wanted to joke about Moses loving god
having seen only his backside,
but friend, it’s too early for sacrilege.
Instead, let’s talk about whores.

Talk about my mother’s devotional, Bad Women of the Bible,
which had her convinced local streetwalkers
wove nightgowns out of shadow & stripped
passersby with a flick of an eyelash.
.
The book traces makeshift lineages of harlotry, saying Azazel
set apart the first whores when he gifted us knives & make-up.
Or pagan gods forged us out of strawberry paste & fishnets. Or
we evolved from screech owls as bird-footed women.

The author ultimately names Lilith foremother of whores,
inventor of the strap-on. See, she wanted Adam to be a switch,
making her wicked in the voyeuristic eyes of the Lord. For this desire,
satyrs, night terrors, & wet dreams would spill from her labia for millennia.
Because, by His will, a woman must always give birth to something.

II.
These histories scrape behind me
like a wedding train
as I skype Ann about stints of sex work.

Her siberian husky rests his snout in her lap,
licks salt from her fingertips, & I think of Jezebel & the rabid hounds.
How they left the palms of her hands unchewed on the blood-soaked terrace,
as if they knew what kindness could have resided there.

Ann describes how quickly sweetheart twisted into cunt in a client’s mouth
as he brushed her orchiectomy scars. I recall old tales
about judgment woven into flesh,

& myself disrobing for a woman who,
seeing my moonlit skin & the alien expanse
of my sore-peppered thighs, said
How dare you not tell me you have AIDS.

Instead of explaining Crohn’s—
the emaciations & abscesses, the fistulas & swelling,
the bleed & the bloat—
I slid my leggings back on, walked out.

III.
Name us a god who is a hooker instead of a john,
whose law is nourish one another within reason
instead of be fruitful & multiply,
& we will believe.

R. Cassandra Bruner was born and raised in Southern and Central Indiana, and currently resides in Spokane, WA. She is currently an MFA poetry candidate at Eastern Washington University, where she works as the Managing Editor for Willow Springs Books and the Web Editor for Willow Springs magazine. Her poetry has previously appeared in Axolotl, and was a winner of Montana Book Festival’s Emerging Writer Contest.




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