Ambalila Hemsell

Abalone, abalone, let me trust your slick muscle
and chambered iridescence. In the moonlight, among
the ruins, we partake of your innocence. Rome was
here. In front of this nightclub and gelato stand.
It is delicate, twinning your life to someone else’s:
like balancing two fish on a scale though the fish are
still fidgeting. I know, darling. Sometimes you want sleep,
but the oxygen is too thick. Your blood is rich with it
and impatient as the sea. Like salted urchin before
the noble octopus, we vowed to serve each other.
Itching, we bound foot to pedal and began the work.
Over many steep days found mercy, Adriatic—​
My clumsy blue wounding. Your big slow heart.


Before you were born, you
         pushed aside the small intestine,
pushed aside the liver. You, sacred acorn,
         nestled to the sacrum.
Holy mother, holy fool, holy lunar pumpkin, I opened
         like a lion’s mouth: conduit of lightning
to conduit of flood.
         Birth is a catastrophe. We go alone
to the death-gates, fetch back life.
         We alone climb the pyre, turn flame. Return
to find the story changed.

         Find in our ears the somber phonetics
of cold black stars and black ripe berries.
         Of how we carved a home here
with bone spears. Made angelic by hunger
         and colossal by love, the mountain is a small feat.
Your feet go on and on.
         To break is to be god-like, boy-child take note.
Later when you load your gun.

Mother saw the death-gates. Mother brought you back.

Ambalila Hemsell is from Colorado. She holds an M.F.A. in poetry from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program, where she is currently a Zell Fellow. Her poetry can be found in Riprap Literary Journal and Virga, and is forthcoming in Ruminate.