If their tails really did grow back, we never saw,having by then returned the skinks and racerunnersto their burrows and wind-furrowed dunes.This was Nebraska, summertime, a whole worldremoved from this less obvious one, field-pivotsorbiting nothing, clouds of gnats coalescinginto gaseous planets, hell, even the radiowas somehow plainer out there. At the topof the hour, a gruff voice rattled through futuresand the price-per-bushel of soybeans, a voiceperfectly at ease with the sort of dull machinerythat swallows people whole—what I meant toprove was a mind full of purpose and a headfor precision. So I caught the lizards and cuttheir tails off with a hacksaw while my cousinsshrieked with glee. I'd read Lear, by then, whichwas part of the problem, part of the part of myselfI was trying to lop off for good, that flamboyantprecocity, that taste for beauty in all its irrevocableache and complexity. As flies to wanton boys—Would you believe I thought of the line as I helda severed tail up to the light, inspecting the scales'overlay, that impossible geometry? What matterif you don't? That's the truth. Together, sometimeswe chased the girls with the bloody-limp tails,but when I was alone, I sat by the bank and heldsun-hot stones to my chest and prayed to the godof lucid skies who put calligraphy on the faceof the water, and below it, light that quakes and warpsin ribbons, who cast glittering archipelagosacross the marble floors of commerce, who mulledthe viscous light of winter afternoons, who even honedthe sliver of light that cut my grandmother in half,her last morning. Her gray tongue flickedat the ice chips and her mouth opened and closedby reflex, and I will never forget it. What I wantedwas to be unformed, to be stripped naked and devolveback, back to that time before my parts made meun-whole, before death was withstood, let alonetaken lying down. Some days, I walked aroundall afternoon with a cleft tail in my pocket, calling ittalisman, calling it clever fiction in the selfsamebreath. I knew myself a coward, but I thoughtself-severance was a way of being brave and smartat once, another genius trick of evolution. Turns outthey mostly die, and if they are made whole again,their tails grow back discolored, stubby, and dull,so they're outcasts anyway. Imbricated light of days,I may many times have been an engine of cruelty,but let them never say I was no student of the light.I was. I apprenticed myself to the light and saw itbreak on everything.
Copyright © 2021 by JP Grasser.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Launched in 1956 (with the first issue featuring work by Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, E. E. Cummings, Henry Miller, Bertolt Brecht, and Mark van Doren), Colorado Review is a national literary journal featuring contemporary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and book reviews. Each issue is approximately 200 pages. Published three times a year, CR has a circulation of approximately 1,100, is carried by university and public libraries across the country, and is distributed by Kent News to independent bookstores. The journal receives over 9,000 manuscript submissions each academic year.
Colorado Review is committed to the publication of contemporary creative writing. We are equally interested in work by both new and established writers. CR does not publish genre fiction, nor do we subscribe to a particular literary philosophy or school of poetry or fiction.