From our annual Literary Issue, published Dec. 25, 2019, featuring original compositions and illustrations from local writers and artists.

I. Like the End and the Way

In talking to God,

I’m talking about the gods.

“I am an atheist,” I concede.

I prod and I pick and I pop

Every blister and every scab

On my dirty, pink knees.

You prod and you prod and you prod

Everything in between.

Spread, I become a gilded triptych.

Folded, I withhold the center scene.

As the Artist, I accept,

Without resentment, my role.

As the Liar, I accept.

With resentment, I extol him.

Distrust everything I say.

I am telling the truth.

The end was in the way.

I hid my consecrated couth.

II. You Just Swallow and Swallow

Sweat and skin: a eucharist.

I am but a foraged whore.

Sown skin, soft like snow.

Every petal, plucked before

You’ll ever have a chance to

Pluck even one more.

Who says you can’t consume

Something that’s empty?

Honey, swallow. Heavenly swallow.

Ugly, I am left hollow.

To stop being afraid,

One must read the truth.

But I am still afraid.

You shouldn’t let poets lie to you.

I am not your kinder whore.

Sown skin, soft. Overgrown.

I reach for the martyr’s palm:

Beloved Saint Agnus of Rome.

III. Lined With the Disembodied

I penned my penance,

An inclination for atonement.

I tongued hemlock and dogbane

Before I swung the liturgical censer.

A chorus of farewells echoed

Before silence fell in vain.

Disembodied cries

Hung suspended with disdain.

Disembodied lies

Became the sacred terrain.

As the Artist, I reject,

Without hesitation, my role.

As the Liar, I reject,

With hesitation, a cult of souls.

I won’t fasten myself to your poem.

I forgot truth while seeking lyricism.

I unstitch your words from my home

With indecision and precision.

Mia Mendez is a songwriter in Charleston. She performs with noise rock band Art Star., which released its debut album, Akin to Sin, in 2019.