OFFERING, BY CHRISTEN NOEL KAUFFMAN
I whisper Jesus Christ to the trees
to see if words burden their branches
in the same way I bend with the weight
of everything I pick up and carry in my mouth.
It’s an endless cycle of sun and then rain,
of one night in a tent we erected under trees
just to see if we could last and if maybe
there are wolves who still hunt late at night.
I’ve heard their snarling since the day
I was born, since my body slipped egg-thick
into someone else’s hands, but there’s a tree
standing alone in a median between highways
I always knew I couldn’t get across.
When I carve Jesus Christ in cursive on my leg
I imagine a graffiti tag, the signature an artist
leaves on blown glass, as I want to be loved
on my mother’s favorite quilt.
Tell me what to do with these hungry mouths
and this body I don’t know how to touch.
Every time the copperheads find a way
into potting soil we keep beside the house,
I want the trees to take communion with rows
of empty bikes, to remember how it feels
under canopy of endless sky, and Jesus Christ
it’s an ocean of need I can’t contain, can’t keep
from spilling down my favorite red dress.
When I dream, there are circles of wolves
outside the tent and I meet them in the dark,
bare skinned beneath the trees.
I welcome their teeth against my back.
Christen Noel Kauffman lives in Richmond, Indiana with her husband and two daughters. Her work can be found in Tupelo Quarterly, The Cincinnati Review, Willow Springs, DIAGRAM, Booth, Smokelong Quarterly, and The Normal School, among others.