Raye Hendrix

Mama Says Angels Are Watching Over Us

& our dearly departed too, looking down
from up there in Heaven

          ( since the alternative is not something
          we let ourselves think on but we know
          some of them weren’t saved & we know
          what the Bible has to say about that, but
          we act like we forget they were heathens
          because it feels wrong to bring it up )

just doing whatever dead folks do,
hanging out in their Heavenly houses,
drinking Heavenly tea

          ( extra sweet, now that they can’t get
          sugar sick )

leaning back in their Heavenly La-Z-Boys
& watching our lives on their Heavenly
TV sets, each of us left on Earth a channel
they can flip to

I wonder if God lets them see & hear
the good shit, like sex or music with swearing
or folks drinking cold beer—which in Heaven
is probably the bad shit but I reckon
that’s still the shit they miss the most,
cause I would

          ( but maybe I’m not going to Heaven
          even though my family will never admit it
          because it feels wrong to bring that up )

I hope he lets them watch it all
except I hope there’s some rules, like
I miss my Meemaw & Pawpaw &
I hope they’re having a good time
watching over me but I wish
they wouldn’t see me having sex,
like maybe everybody gets one channel
where it’s someone they never knew
& that’s the only channel with sex &
God censors the rest

          ( Fundamentally I don’t believe
          in censorship but there’s gotta
          be some kind of line you know? )

the angels probably get to watch whatever they want
on account of being angels but I imagine they don’t
enjoy the sex & swearing & beer & all that
considering they don’t have that shit in Heaven
& Heaven’s their home team

whatever they’re watching though they’re sure
as Hell not watching close enough & neither is God

I’m supposed to wanna go there,
pearly gates, gold streets, etc., but
what good is gold when you’re dead
seems a shame to store up riches there
when it’d make this hard living a whole
lot less hard if He’d let me store them up here

all that gold & they can’t even buy a beer

but down here I’ve got some change
& a scratch-off worth a six-pack & a little
bit of good bad shit I can get into

          ( & what I get into may not be Heaven
          but what I got here’s close enough )

I can call my baby up & say hey
baby, put something dirty on
the radio, I’m coming home,
let’s give some poor dead bastards
we ain’t ever met a show

Intersex Bloodwork

At least you’re a woman where it counts
he says, eyes cold on my chest

where it curves the white paper
gown like the half heart-shaped

tucked wing of a swan. I am unsexed
in a sterile bouquet, little tubes warm

with a red I didn’t get to choose—
I would have chosen umber, pine,

a moss-frocked stone in winter rain.
He doesn’t ask what I want, only

what’s between my legs, if that
particular bloom opens as it should.

He wants to know if I fuck like I bleed:
androgyne, multitudinous. Yes

and no. Neither and both. And isn’t
god also a mystery men have tried

to pour into a glass whose shape
they understand. Ask me what

I want. Call me stone, moss. Call me
woman where it counts, which is not

what this man thinks—not a body passive,
but contradiction, a mystery in a woman

-shaped glass. Fuck it. Call me god.
It’s only blasphemy if you believe it.

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Raye Hendrix is a writer, photographer, and disability scholar from Alabama. Her debut poetry collection, What Good Is Heaven, is forthcoming from Texas Review Press (2024). Raye is the author of two chapbooks and the winner of the Keene Prize for Literature (2019) and the Patricia Aakhus Award (Southern Indiana Review, 2018). Their work appears in American Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, 32 Poems, and others. Raye is the poetry editor at Press Pause Press and co-editor of DIS/CONNECT: A Disability Literature Column (Anomalous Press). She is a PhD candidate and Oregon Humanities Center Dissertation Fellow at the University of Oregon.