This poem is part of a manuscript of poems that considers The Peoples Temple, an American congregation that emigrated to Guyana to live an interracial, communal lifestyle in the 70s and were coerced into suicide by their spiritual leader.


Sweat forms a gracious caul over us, hovering and humming:


Do not let the lye touch your skin.


Blessed babies gather in its bag of waters until the very moment

they enter this plane. Saved & placed under the bed of the dying

it lubricates the channels back. Sweat is the best we can do

in our sorcery of lard & ash.


Avoid inhaling fumes, ventilate.

Cover your eyes. Mix vigorously.


Egyptians recorded as remedy & protection what we regard as hygiene.

Like babies & the dying traversing the same plane, different directions.

Invention is a kind of lie we are gifted. God is a chance we take. After all

frontier women, too, hovered over cauldrons creasing their hands, yet plague.