Homemade Sin

Maari Carter


Father makes us watch
as flames spit up from the floorboards.

We found out later it was lightning
that struck the cross atop

Mount Sinai Baptist Church,
set it to burning. Fire

is what awaits the wicked he shouted,
the first time he cast light

through the cracked door
and found us. Before your broke nose

bled into my hand. Before
the earth heaved and our father

looked on what he had made
and something in him knelt down.


I know no religion
but the black of your hair

matted against the pillow.
Morning sun smote our eyelids

and somewhere a stump rocked
from an ax going clean through

a chicken’s neck. You turned
your head toward me, and a feather

lifted into the air before settling
where dust motes swarmed in the corner.


We stand on opposite sides of the creek,
stretching taut the strings

connecting tin cans
we whisper into, tempting

the distance between us. There is
always the daily unraveling

of the blood that binds us together,
always the nightly rethreading,

smell of cow shit and summer-
warm ranunculus in the breeze

through our window. Flesh
of my flesh. Bone of my bone—


If I could
I would sharpen my tongue

on your sweat-soaked belt strap
while a dogtooth moon

bellows at our front porch.
Then you wouldn’t say Sister

sometimes I taste your familiar,
nor I Brother, sometimes

your cum tastes like honeysuckle.
And might we be beautiful

if every night you didn’t wash me
from interstates that run

across your palm, rinse my lip
grit off the sunburnt embankment

of your neck? The day
the Yalobusha flooded we sat

watching bass boats salvage driftwood,
carry the stranded toward town.

The railroad bridge’s dust
daubed my thighs and water mites

speckled the river’s surface. You sank
nail crescents into my arm, claimed

it was a blessing nobody was lost.
But I knew we were

the cricket song of bedsprings
that brought about the reversal of creation.

By letting you name me, he made it so
I’d never be good to any god but you—

Maari Carter hails from Winona, Mississippi, where she spent the better part of nine years behind the cash register at a gas station. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such publications as burntdistrict, Superstition Review, and Salt Hill Journal, among others. She is the winner of the 2014 Philip Booth Poetry Prize from Salt Hill Journal and recently completed an MFA in Poetry at Florida State University.