Idolatry for Dummies [2022 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize Featured Finalist]

Liberace had his lovers turn their faces into his own like a man-mirror. What is the opposite of this gesture? Something spiritual for sure. I am constantly reminded that religion is creepy but perhaps our sole hope for kindness. I am tired of being kind, of always being on. I’m lowkey surprised that cults aren’t more popular. Who doesn’t want to belong, to stake every all-in move—their baskets brimming with eggs, their moms crying into puffy pillows. If no one misses you, are you even real? Maybe this cynicism is just from one of me. How many mes are there? There is a me that grinds on anything angled. And another me that is mother of the year. And another me shut away with silence in a house for God. When I was twelve a wimpy woman with husk hair held my heels and diagnosed my malaise. Daddy issues. Wrong again, white people! When I was twenty-five a hairless man hovered his hands above my hips and asked how bad it hurt when Jack the Ripper tore my body from itself, asked if I even knew how many centuries I’ d been alive. Oh please sweet God of my dreams, of my fallacious foxhole, let me die with a poem in my hand, with my own face, with no one to regret their birth. My life is so small. You could mail it to your mother! Liberace had a Steinway in every room of his home. My lover says pianos require round rooms and I wonder if Liberace’s home was bubbles, was full-on foam. I don’t mean to be so withholding. I don’t mean to drag the carrot, to hint at treat. I’ll get to it. Would you switch your face for me? Could you take the pain? Would I touch you more if we were me? Would I love I? Where would I go? Foamy foamy me all forever and faced and heathen.                          All     I. 


Adele Elise Williams is a writer, editor, and educator. She is a PhD candidate in literature and creative writing at the University of Houston, where she serves as nonfiction editor for Gulf Coast. Williams’s work can be found or is forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Guernica, Cream City Review, The Florida Review, The Adroit Journal, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.