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Ray Ball

Geneology Ending in Talking Serpents

Iconography of Hearts & Hares

Geneology Ending in Talking Serpents

What can you make of a stolen rib
that begets a woman? Would gravity
pull it back to its origins?

The answers to the New York Times crosswords clues are:


A child turns the page
of the family Bible.
Genealogies beget genealogies.
She traces her finger
over what seem like ancient trees.

One branch ends
with a cloistered nun,
another in a Benedictine monastery.
The child imagines the monk’s
hands cupping the chalice,
cupping the body of Christ.

Another branch twists
as if fighting a strong wind
before its buds begin to flower.
Spring brings the tents
of revivalists and missionaries.

A woman marries a snake
charmer. His hands are marked
with bites and strong
from building cages. They
evoke temples in miniature.

The answers to the New York Times crossword clues are:


The child reads Genesis.
She imagines holding
her father’s serpents
again. Her favorites speak                                                                 
to her in gentle hisses.

What is the right
of return? How do you
raise the dead?

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Iconography of Hearts & Hares

Sometimes, in the night, I whisper
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned
it’s been since before you died, Uncle,
since my last confession—

It was you who heard my first. Your
cigarette-stained fingers administered
absolution, gave me my original sin-
free taste of Christ’s body and blood,
under the beating

of His sacred heart—icon of flames
and thorns. I cannot really remember
what I said at the confessional grate. How
can a child see herself as a plague

of rabbits devouring Santo Porto
or Valdez? Stars flicker from heaven’s
tenderest places, but I am shadowed:
too much despair reflected in the empty
whiskey glass.

I think of Benedict of Palermo’s own
scarlet heart raising from his body with such
purpose and wonder why mine must always
feel like a stone requiring shattering to open.

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Ray Ball currently lives on the land of the Dena’ina, where she works as a history professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is the author of four books, including the poetry chapbooks Tithe of Salt (Louisiana Literature, 2019) and Lararium (Variant Lit, 2020). Her poems and fiction have appeared in numerous journals, including descant, Glass, Orange Blossom Review, and X-R-A-Y. Ray has received multiple nominations for Pushcart and has been a Best of the Net finalist. She is an associate editor at Coffin Belland and assistant editor at Juke Joint. You can find her on Twitter @ProfessorBall.

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