S O M A N Y M O U T H S
In the garden Jack's coated in birth fluid from delivering horses next door. I am let out, but the lock & key still dangles on the witch's neck. I lick the pollen off his face with my sawtooth tongue and leave behind pinpricks of blood.
My hands unfurl into leaves when I root in the dirt; I glue dried flowers to my cheeks. I said we'd never have to touch (much) and she liked this, squeezing my wrist.
My cuticles are torn little sails.
In the barrel she was a thrasher, the water plum-colored from her attempts to bite through her own tail. I dumped sardine cans, tomato juice and all, into her prison.
Jack helps me gather bread from the trails girls have made in the forest. Twice we've found these girls dead, their stomachs opened by grizzlies. When we find them he is scared, but I am never am.
We kiss but neither of us mean it.
I think of finding a girl alive and touching my lips to her bloody mouth. How she'll rip open her stockings to show me her legs.
I stuck my hand up her once, grateful not to find teeth. That's the story we're supposed to tell, but we just napped under the trees and I thought about her licking icing off the baker's son.
As it got darker, I put myself in her place--red velvet in my imaginary mouth.
I used to have so many mouths.
I used to be so alone.
The witch says I will grow up like this. Safe. Real mother far away, sisters who spill pots of boiling water onto their husbands' outstretched arms when they think of my face.
I feel the pulse point on her neck. I put my face in the dirt like I am making a mask.
My feet hiss like carbonated water on the stone path.
When I find Jill her hair is spider web dew. Her eyes are coal mid-burn. Her mouth is all the good things.
We carry her into the tower and make her a foot soak in the blood-stained barrel. We set her broken leg with a fishing rod.
She stares up at me, woozy, and bats her stumpy lashes. Jack brings her a jar of tadpoles and the glass distorts them--as if they're growing before our eyes.
T H E W I T C H S A Y S P L A N I T
gar child, my foxtrot,
all your family cared about was bread.
What will you do
when your Jill turns sour and well?
When her eyes whiten
with the clarity of shucked oysters?
I came for you in daylight, gar child.
Your mouths coated with syrup
dug up from beneath the porch.
An eleven-year-old flounce,
sparklers, a pancake stack falling into my lap.
gar child, if you keep her now
she'll have to stay—
a wall of pillows between her and the door,
love bites waxing on her arm.
Can you do this, gar child?
Can you swap cherry spit?
Can you be will-o'-the-wisp,
a past-erasing shimmer?
J E N N I F E R H A N K S
Jennifer Hanks is the author of two forthcoming chapbooks, Prophet Fever (Hyacinth Girl Press) and The Unsteady Planet (Instar Books), a collaboration with illustrator Julie Herndon. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Bone Bouquet, Menacing Hedge, The Boiler, [PANK], and Ghost Ocean. She writes a tiny nonfiction column called Disorder Reigns for Arcadia Magazine and is an associate editor for Sundress Publications. She is slowly amassing a sleeve of freshwater fish on her right arm (so far: two zebrafish and a discus)
H E R M E N E U T I C C H A O S J O U R N A L
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