For my birthday my sister gave me a bottle
of lotion that somehow smells like the memory
of Noxzema, the transmutations of adolescence,
astringent and powerful baptisms of splashing water.
I think of the cunning men and women,
healers, barber-surgeons, midwives on stools.
Wonder at their strange prognostications
and diagnoses. They know glass birds fly
from keyholes. I apply the lotion as they might have
a snakestone or bezoar to a wound made by serrated wings
or teeth. The way they brought forth silver and rose petals.
A jug of mercury, the salve for what must be cauterized by stars.
Ray Ball grew up in a house full of snakes. She is a history professor, a Best of the Net and Pushcart-nominated poet, and an editor at Alaska Women Speak. Her chapbook Tithe of Salt came out with Louisiana Literature Press in the spring of 2019, and she has recent publications in Human/Kind Journal, Rivet, and SWWIM Every Day. You can find her in the classroom, in the archives, or on Twitter @ProfessorBall.
Artwork: Laura Makabresku