BEWTEEN GRACE & MERCY
by I.S. Jones
Photo Credit: Chuck Huru
We are taught early our bodies are the first burnt offering.
Before I was Executioner, I was a girl who disappeared into the woods and returned as a woman against her will.
Adam meets me in the stable and tells me to grab Ife, my pet goat. She pulls but acquiesces. Adam grabs my machete
and I follow. He’s always been in the background—
my earth-father, not a shadow, but the fever of a shadow.
When we reach the clearing, he hands me the blade, points to Ife, says “Do it.” Before I can protest, Adam raises his hand to split my lip
with such fervor the forest starts ringing.
What is blood if not a warning? What is grace if not an earth-father desperate to carve the weakness out of his daughter?
A shame whose offer creates its own demand.
Even a threat is an offering when Adam forces me to look into Ife’s eyes before dragging the blade across her throat.
The sad beast’s neck slurring blood and something between my legs parted.
I watched it stutter stutter then stop.
Don’t talk to me about mercy or what I could have spared.
I.S. Jones is a queer American / Nigerian poet and music journalist. She is a Book Editor with Indolent Books, Editor at Voicemail Poetry, freelances for Complex, Earmilk, NBC News Think and elsewhere. She is the 2018 winner of the Second Annual Brittle Paper Award in Poetry and is a 2018 Brooklyn Poets Fellow. She is an MFA Candidate in Poetry at UW-Madison.