​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

​​In this season where sugar turns ash, Mama and I rise
before school to buy fasnachts, buttery lumps 
of potato flour, from the best bakery in town. 
I wear chapstick to trap sugar on my lips,
to hide between my teeth this metaphor 
for everything I’ll lose in Lent, this promise:
                                                                        what I love can leave me. 

I know no matter how many prayers I hurl into heaven, 
I can’t take back the kiss seared on Jesus' brow, the bread
of his bones. I can’t save Mama from mourning,

and so, as always, her love will wither like a bulb
buried too close to winter, vanish as surely as hallelujahs 
from our mouths. No praise now, because Lent
is the wrong season for joy. 

I know better than to test her, but I do it
anyway, holler hallelujah when the sky spits snow,
wide flakes that’ll turn to rain that night.

She grinds her teeth and doesn’t speak to me 
until dinner: Jesus, she prays, make us sorry 
for our sins, offer us the grace to repent

We sing hymns until long after bedtime—
let all mortal flesh keep silent, 
ponder nothing earthly-minded—

                    and I’m almost sorry.
But next day, soot-cross darkening my forehead,  
I bless everything on the playground: 
worms scooped from the sidewalk return alive
to the soaked earth, hallelujah

only two girls murmur freak 
and point at me, hallelujah
when a ball whistles from a boy’s hand 
it misses me, hallelujah
my teacher lets me stay inside for the rest of recess 
and I fill the empty chalkboard, the tail
of each a like the tongue of a lily: 
                    hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

These blessings, not for me, not for them, but for Mama: 
as if blessing something is the same as fixing it. 

As if enough forbidden praise could drag Jesus back
before he leaves us, leaves her alone and wanting  
what I can never give her, some other love than mine.

B Y   E M I L Y   R O S E   C O L E

Emily Rose Cole is a writer and lyricist from Pennsylvania. She has received awards from Jabberwock Review, Ruminate Magazine, and the Academy of American Poets, and her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Nimrod, Spoon River Poetry Review, Yemassee, and Passages North, among others. She holds an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is currently a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati. You can reach her via her website at emilyrosecolepoetry.com.