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when the church elders found out my son had a shining star in his forehead

Poetry, Jessamyn Duckwall

they gave him acid

& everyone wore white.

they took him

to a theater to watch

someone pretend to die

onstage. the theater

was a church

and i followed

my only child there.

they served me

a glass of red and

i tried to reach

him, small one, his face

open to whatever


god waited

among the rafters.

i could feel its

presence heavying

the air. tongues of fire

pressing on my sweated

brow. so you are

here i said as i lifted

my eyes to its

dwelling. i have to

ask you where do all

the prayers go

when they echo back

unanswered. what happens

to your forsaken children

raptureless, alone.

and there, my only child

high on acid was not

afraid of seeing god’s

face the way i was. he was


it seemed—for he

could not speak— he

was ready to die.

i clung to him

like a drunken parasite

but my wine cup was empty

and i found myself wedded

to the task of filling, emptying,

filling, emptying it.


jessamyn duckwall (they/she) is a queer, autistic poet. They are an MFA candidate in poetry at Portland State University and serve as Co-Editor in Chief at The Portland Review. Their current special interests include Sylvia Plath, stinging nettles, and mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest. Raised in the Pentecostal church, jessamyn is an “ex-vangelical” who writes extensively about purity culture and deconstructing their religion. Their work has appeared in Old Pal Magazine, Josephine Quarterly, Kithe Journal, Sylvia Magazine, Pithead Chapel, and Radar Poetry, among other publications. They’re on Instagram as @babydeadnettle.


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