Belt Is Just Another Verb For Song

By Torrin A. Greathouse

“Pain blesses the body back to its sinner”
           —Ocean Vuong

Handcuffs around my wrists 
lined with synthetic fur, my arms bound 

& hoisted, heavenward, as if in praise.
Once, bodies like mine were seen as a symptom

of sin, something to be prayed away;
how once, priests beat themselves to sanctify

the flesh. To put their sins to death. Now,
my clothes scatter across the floor like petals

lanced by hail. Motion stretches objects 
in the eye. A drop of rain remade, 

a needle, a blade. Mark how muscle fiber 
& piano strings both, when struck, ring. 

No music without violence or wind. 

I’ve been searching the backs of lover’s hands
for a kinder score, a pain that makes 

my pain a stranger tune. Still, my body aches 
an ugly psalm. All my bones refuse to harm

-onize. Percussion is our oldest form of song, 
wind bruised into melody. Let me say this plainly:

I want you to beat me 

into a pain that’s unfamiliar. How convenient 
this word, beat, that lives in both the kingdoms 

of brutality & song. The singer’s voice: a cry, 
a moan, god’s name broken across a blade 

of teeth. The riding crop & flog & scourge—
a wicked faith. A blood-loud devotion.  

There is no prayer to save me from my flesh. 
You can’t have the bible without the belt.

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