Song for Medea
You must love your mother no matter what.
Love her for how she loved your father:
the way she taught him to walk through fire,
to press dragon teeth to soil, and then
to slay the men that sprung up like crocus.
You loved your mother, her darkling voice,
the sleeping spells she cast across your bed,
loved her collars of serpent fangs shining.
You were born beneath a white horned moon,
she sang. Each breath you took belonged to her,
but you were born to be ash in the sea.
You loved the knife in your mother's hands, loved
the metal shining and her hair like vines,
you loved her still as she watched you bleed.
The Angels Tell a Story
1. Your first day out of the sea, you learn what thirst means. You learn how to inhale, how to open your eyes above water and let the sunlight stain your pupils. Your skin burns and flakes, caked salt peeling like scabs. An angel finds you, but not before you vomit seawater across a blistering tongue. She finds you at night, learning how to shiver. She submerges you in a bathtub with handfuls of salt crystals, soaks your tongue in honeyed tea. She asks, but you can't remember how you got to shore, how long you remained splayed in the sand like a washed up jellyfish. When you wake you will forget how to breathe without gills. It will be this way for a long time. That night and every night, you dream of perfect quiet, of anemones pulsating in the dark.
2. You do not leave the sea without a good reason, without some shadow swimming at your heels. Always, we are followed, always found on shore surrounded by the guts of our past lives: tentacles, suckers, fish spines; once, a watery reflection of the moon. You, too, have a shadow over your skin. Like a stingray you are covered in tiny fangs. See how the gardenia wilts a day after you touch it, how butterflies avoid your presence. How water swells and glows before slipping finally through your fingers.
Jade Hurter is the author of the chapbook Slut Songs (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2017). She was a finalist in the 2016 Tennessee Williams Poetry Contest, judged by Yusef Komunyakaa, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in THRUSH, The Columbia Poetry Review, Glass, Passages North, New South, and elsewhere.