Fire at the edges

Fire at the edges of my nipples, and you
walk into the room like
banjos playing soft in the woods, to a Yankee.
Terrified of shadows because death is
always hidden at the corners of them, shift my eyes and
swear something moved at the edge of my vision
of you.
We twist words into yarn, spin it with abandon,
knit ourselves shawls and sweaters and blankets to
keep out the cold,
cold that
pleads and begs like an old
beagle, whines and howls and
melts at the doorstep in defeat.
Embers grow under my feet, I
watch the full moon creep across the
sky, empty of stars,
wait out the loneliness and
clench my fist around
one last piece of coal.

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Belts and Bodies

That year I got to be an expert
at pulling the belts from the pants
of dead white soldiers.
I’d bring home ten, twenty in a night–
the women would divide them by firelight,
see if any would fit the men
or the children in their lives.
The rest they scrapped,
made into bootlaces and purse strings
ties for the shelters and,
when we were starving, stew.
It got to be a hobby of mine
to slip the belts from living mens’ pants,
hand them back with a grin.
It got to where they called me along–
I’d rifle through the pants
then slide the belts off last,
the bodies a comforting presence
the bodies cold and unchanging.
It got to be an intimate dance:
me leaning in close
going through pockets
smelling the meat of them
wondering what the next step might be
after their belts come off–
whether I would undress them fully, and
dance with them, and
who these men were before,
me wondering why they had no place
that they were going to.

Fox in the Henhouse

The sleek thief through tall grass, her
bellyfur wet with night dew. The
moon draws in the clouds, her
yellow teeth emerge from drawn lips.
She breathes in scents,
lets them fall over her tongue like language.
Smells the
reeking from a long ways off, she
soon finds the
chicken house, absent its dogs;
once inside, a sense of settling-
she might have lived here, if fate had said so-
even as she takes the hen from the lowest roost
even as the captured hen begins the death screams-
the other chickens stay silent.

To Kill a Rabbit

I catch the rabbit by the back legs,
assess the prize,
savor the victory.
Any old dog would do the same.
Attempt a quick dislocation of the neck,
eyes still wide open,
no kicking fits,
worry that it’s not dead.
Go to string it up by the back legs, it
hangs and does not fight; slice the
artery and it does not bleed; sever the head and
realize it was already dead.
I hope that it would
thank me if it could.

Throw the head to the cats, who
yowl and scuffle and one wins out,
begins to gnaw on the ears.
They don’t imagine regret.
Tear the skin at the neck, start down the belly, find
fat deposits white and veined along the chest.
Move to the back, keep ripping skin,
strip the pelt too easily.
Back to the chest, the
fat goes all the way down the belly, it
does not act like fat,
I accidentally tear it and it spills
white milk that runs and mixes with the red blood on the
butchering table and I
stop breathing with you.
I understand at once,
slow down,
turn to the
setting sun in
agony.
If He really was,
I would curse His name.
I do so anyway.

And then I must finish.
It becomes even more important to finish. The
waste is incredible, it
weighs in my throat, it
beats at my temples, a
thousand rabbits sit on my chest,
I want to be able to cry.
But it must be finished.
The cats gather and I throw the mammary sacs down to them.
They growl and slurp at the sweetest milk,
perverted children,
while the deserving kits will starve.

Peel the skin backwards across her paws,
save her rabbits feet. The
cats come looking for more and I
throw them the pelt, too delicate to save.
Cut open the belly, pull out the insides,
relieved to find no pinkies inside, no wonder her
milk was so rich, her
glands so swollen.
I rinse the milk and blood from her body,
revel in the pinkness of the meat, she is
so beautiful.
Honor her as best I can with
herbs and it will
never be enough.

Farming Poem 1

What you remember most is the mud.
The deep boot-sucking mud, the
shallow slip-and-fall-on-your-butt mud. The
tire-spinning mud and
crop-drowning mud. The
manure-mixed mud. The
splatter on your truck mud. The kind of
mud that turns your rolling green hills into a
feedlot kind of mud. The way the
livestock take on this sunken look, with their
feet and legs coated, with their
eyes and noses coated. The
cattle turn the whole fence line into mud. The
hens track the mud into the nests and
smear it all over their eggs. The
hogs lie down in it and roll in it and
turn every piece of bare ground into a wet pit of mud.

Then there is the death and the
half-way-between-death atrocities. The
nasty way everything will
fight for its life, or at least everything
you’re pretty sure you never wanted to survive in the first place: the
deformed heads and too-small bodies; extra limbs on chicks;
fully-formed embryos still moving and peeping in the
batch of eggs you threw into the compost, thinking they were all dead. The
calf with the prolapsed uterus that you had to
shoot because you couldn’t fix it and
couldn’t afford to have the vet out. Well, that you had to have a
neighbor come and shoot because you couldn’t do it. The way the
piglets in a litter will tear each other apart,
ripped ears and scarred faces, just to have the most
drinks from a mommas teats. The day you forgot to put a
nest box out for your rabbit and she
kindled all over the cage wire, eight pink dead kits.

Vampire mythology
does not even begin to
explain the madness.

Ancient Ones

Me an armored leviathan, a dinosaur chainmail’d, teeth iron-coated, only the
sagging reptilian drag-belly laid bare slipping over the hardpacked winter dirt;

You a stingless jellyfish bobbing slowly with each moon-pull wave, rice noodle
tentacles below, dome pudding body exposed to air, thinking of heaven;

Me an ancient stone warrior, once-buried in a grave alongside a corpse,
looted and exposed to the elements, moss growing along my sharp nose,
down the ornate curls of my beard, face frozen and fallen away long ago;

You the grey vixen, denning pups in a ruined pagan temple, their mewls among
the ivy grown wild across the crumbling stone, your teats heavy with their milk-life.

Snake-Oil Salesman

Begone, Snake-Oil Salesman.
My body has lain in the clear running spring
in these very mountains, and has
risen, the effervescence settling over my skin
as scales,
and me now the serpent
from which you stole your oil,
once my oil, all at once my oil.
Beneath my tongue I feel the venom,
I rise again with no limbs, only
belly muscle after belly muscle after belly muscle
writhing in water,
the slide of dense belly
against jagged rocks, soft orchardgrass, a wayward dungbeetle,
I writhe my way to you
and deliver my venom in one thick glob of spit
straight into your eyes.