a deconstruction of honey & candles & church
My mother taught me lessons in honey.
Imagine age five: she smeared it across my bare
back and told me to lay in the middle of a flowering field.
Burrs painted patterns of pink across marred skin, grass itched,
and I wondered what it would be like to sink into the
ground, absorbed and melting like the last candle on an altar. She
used to take me to church when I was younger, but I was never
chosen to light those sacred wicks as prayers hung low in the air
like steam—it was always the priest’s daughter, and I
never understood why. We stopped going a year before, and I
missed those lines pews and stained-glass windows.
She made me lay there for hours until cutting canyons of ants
crawled up by back, attracted to the saccharine sweetness,
and they left their crimson bites behind.
if you attract men to you
my mother said
all they’ll cause is harm.
Imagine age twelve: the cusp of teenage years, and it
doesn’t yet feel like a movie. I lost the knobby knees but
gained new awkwardness in my movements; lost the chubby cheeks but
gained weight elsewhere. Instead of honey sweetening my foods,
she replaced it with artificial creations: sweet ‘n low, truvia, splenda,
stevia, equal. Zero-calorie powders that never tasted ripe enough,
but she threw away all the honey, said my clothes were too tight and I
needed to maintain my figure. She pinched at my sides, weighed
and prodded Sunday mornings, calculated calories for the week. My tastebuds
never adapted, they yearned for confection and love, and I dreamt of
caramel chocolate and hugs, but she gave me diets and cleanses. Workouts
and routines, and the fat began to melt away and I thought back to
those alter candles, wishing my entire body would dissolve with the fat.
your body is a weapon
my mother said
learn how to use it.
Imagine age eighteen: legal adult by name only, neither comfort
nor ability. I still called my ex boyfriend every time I ran a load
of laundry, still looked up tutorials every time I tried to cook. She came
to my room as I zipped the final bags, my new life across the
country contained. College: what a strange place to go. I had never been
without her for more than a night. A flickering match lit up her
grave expression and she pressed the flame to the center of my palm. It
was the same match from those old church days, the ones the
daughters breathed into candles, and as I cried out and a wound bloomed,
I wondered if the girls ever burned themselves on accident. If they prayed
for healing or if that was too selfish of a need. She handed me a bottle
of honey to pack and said it would soothe the burn better than
any medicine. I didn’t pray as she left but I ducked my head and
imaged the words pouring out of my mouth, thick like honey.
hurt yourself enough times
my mother said
any no one else can cause lasting damage.
first appeared in Kalopsia Literary Journal (June 2021)
By Natalie Hampton
Natalie Hampton is a rising junior at the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in the Creative Writing Department. She has been recognized at the National level of the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition and by the Harris County Department of Education, the Young Poets Network, the Pulitzer Center, and Ringling College of Art and Design. She serves as an editor at Polyphony Lit and Cathartic Literary Magazine. She has taken online workshops and classes with Iowa, Brown, Sewanee, and Ellipsis Writing.