Tinderella On Fire

M’Bilia Meekers

Tonight is my turn, the mattress on the floor stacked with pillows like a pyre

in a field of cotton. Because I’m not your only lover, when you touch me,

I burn. The last time, a drop of bacon anointed your forehead


while you flicked your tongue against my clit,

because I was standing, eating the sandwich you brought me,

my thigh propped up beside your head. Brooklyn special, you said,


and I thought it was some sort of blessing, the grease on your brow, then sweat

dripping on the bed. When we had sex, it smelled so much like seared pork

and I’ve learned, because I am a daughter, I may be a piece of meat.


When I returned to my mother, I was reading Louise Glück, my body blacker

than a third-degree burn, breast charred by your mouth. In your mouth,

my areola as round as hers. She asked whether I slept in cinders, and the implication


was ‘like a slave woman.’ Were slaves not long ago, I thought, only ten generations,

but I didn’t say it. We were in the Mercedes and the radio was playing

The Weeknd. I’ve got tired of waiting for men shaped like princes


and the story of Cinderella, I think, teaches young women

we may be saved from our mothers by marrying noble men. We want out,

or want them, until we cut pieces of our bodies off. A little heel,


a little blood, a big toe on the rug. I saw my mother naked once.

I was a girl. I’d just woke up, watched through the open door,

beads of water falling down her stomach, curling in her pubic hair.


She was walking bare-chested through the bedroom, wearing

my father’s plastic viking helmet from last Halloween. In that moment,

I wanted tits, an ass a lover like you could grasp with two hands.


And I’ve been thinking a lot about Norsemen, how sometimes the villagers

would bury their chieftain with his thrall—as in, the Vikings would fuck

and kill a female slave, set her corpse, and his, aflame. I ask myself,


would this be worse than being raped on a plantation, enslavement extending

into death? Because his songs make me feel sexy, I listen to The Weeknd,

but I turn the radio off when the song asks Would you die for a nigga


or nah? I guess I’m enthralled too often, and my mother tells me

there’s no evidence that Vikings ever wore horned helmets. What exists,

Glück says, is an argument between the mother and the lover: to whom


does the body of the daughter belong, if not herself? Your tongue in my ear,

your hand against my neck. I’m still breathing. When we kiss, I think, my god,

the body on fire, breaching its container, molten like glass stretching into slippers.



M'Bilia Meekers is a poet whose work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Guernica, Poet Lore, WildnessThe Adroit Journal, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. A recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, The Watering Hole, and Poets & Writers, she received her MFA in poetry from New York University. She lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.