Mother-ground, show me roots, in your bare, dirty, kiss.
—Margo Berdeshevsky, Amber is a Tree's Blood

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Epitaph at the Foot of the Stone

Like you, I was born underwater.
(I lied: there was never a stone.)
Like you, I was born but that’s not the half of it:
I lived. Lord, I lived. Like a cancer, I crept
sideways. Like a scorpion, I lied. I lived
the way a problem lives, openly, so much
earth wanted me closed. Don’t you know the dead
are not easy? Don’t you know they crave?
I stepped out of the water (I was made doing this) slick-
skinned, fluent, a character: my eyes twice
haunted, my humor, my voice—and can’t you hear
shackles running the length of my voice? I was born
in a minute, in a panic, on a whim. A mistake,
I mean. A choice between this world and a body,
pretty fault where a heart should be.

for Camille Rankine

— rickey laurentiis

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