The Genetics of Chastity

by Ariella Carmell

My Ulysses professor once told us
he could not digest the notion of

Immaculate Conception, for Mary’s mother
& her mother before her & her mother before her

would’ve had to be pure as well. Her abstinence,
& hers alone, was not enough for him.

I sat in class with my legs open & thought
about how my mother was a virgin until marriage

at age 25 & how for her mother pinky-clasping was
the most erotic courtship got in those days. I remembered

myself tumbling on grass, hair clinging to my
astonished mouth, with a boy whose acquaintance

I had met hours before, like Gerty MacDowell
unfastened on the shore. Or the girl

whose mouth tasted mineral. Birth control
like mints I hoarded. Somewhere behind me,

one of my mothers must have been
an aberration: I could never be Mary.


 Ariella Carmell

The Genetics of Chastity by Ariella Carmell first appeared in Issue 8 of Bare Fiction Magazine (August 2016).