Raye Hendrix


Summer held thunder
to the mountainside
like a lover but offered

nothing—heat lightning
the false prophet of rain—
a chalk-dry sky that swallowed

the moon and everything blue.
My mother didn’t believe
in omens but that year

I caught her lighting candles
for want of water, found
my father staring

at what was left of the lake—
the way its cracked shoreline
curled like the mocking smile

of a skull.
On Sunday mornings
the preacher said it was sin—

our secret pleasures—
that kept the rain at bay
so men lined up all summer

to be baptized and all
the women started wearing

The week after the abortion
I wanted to be heavy
so despite the drought

I swallowed water in secret
wrapped my body around
whatever spigot I could find

while the pious prayed
for rain, and like Judas
kissing cheeks on Sundays

I prayed with them—tested
the weight of water on my knees—
but when it finally came

it flooded everything,
uprooted all that might
have grown—



    for Senators Greg Albritton of Atmore; Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa; Will Barfoot of     Montgomery; Tom Butler of Madison; Clyde Chambliss of Prattville; Donnie Chesteen of     Geneva; Chris Elliott of Fairhope; Sam Givhan of Huntsville; Garlan Gudger of Cullman;     Andrew Jones of Centre; Steve Livingston of Scottsboro; Del Marsh of Anniston; Jim     McClendon of Springville; Tim Melson of Florence; Arthur Orr of Decatur; Randy Price     of Opelika; Greg Reed of Jasper; Dan Roberts of Birmingham; Clay Scofield of     Guntersville; David Sessions of Mobile; Shay Shelnutt of Trussville; Larry Stutts of     Sheffield; Jabo Waggoner of Vestavia Hills; Cam Ward of Alabaster; Jack Williams of     Wilmer; and Governor Kay Ivey.

The day I became
property of the state

of Alabama I’d already
been bleeding for a week

and I knew I wouldn’t
use my body’s blood to save

the idea of someone else.
I knew I’d lose it trying

to save myself. I prayed,
told God I’d rather die

than live another day
as a daughter in a country

full of sons. He answered
in a voice like a funeral,

or America, or a man:
That’s the only choice
a daughter gets to make.


Raye Hendrix is a poet from Alabama. She earned her MA from Auburn University and her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin. Raye is the winner of the 2019 Keene Prize for Literature and the 2018 Patricia Aakhus Award (Southern Indiana Review) and a finalist for Tinderbox Poetry Journal’s Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize (2018). Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Shenandoah, Cimarron Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Poetry Northwest, Poetry Daily, The Pinch, and elsewhere. Raye will begin working on her PhD in American Literature and Queer/Crip theory this fall at the University of Oregon.