How to Abandon Ship
Cows calve, horses foal, goats kid, but women do not child.Another verb separates us from the noun of it, a distance betweencells that split in my body, my body, and her wet fur on my stomach.I spent all morning as an animal, all afternoon coveringthat knowledge up with dirt and sticks. I scratchedout a hole to bury my shame in. Someday my boneswould be gnawed at by something with fur. I tastedbitter adrenaline down my throat. I laid with youhaunch to haunch and rolled back my reason. Once our speciescould cooperate, we could drop bombs, invent plastic, extractfossil fuels, burn and burn. Books showed species that coulddecimate a herd. Our forward-facing eyes made us predator, butit all seemed long ago: before we’d transcended to theseinsulated rooms and screens. We studied bodies we’d madeextinct as a hobby. It seemed impossible we were stillroaming the countryside, still on the ships with such largeholds. The animals my daughter loves best she distorts with love:bear’s fur matted under an arm, skunk’s head misshapenwith sleep. I watch her menagerie fray, try to rethreadthe monkey’s arm to its body, brush out the horse’s tangleof plastic mane. In her room, I can repair a species. When shegets older someone will tell her how to groom the animal offof herself. My body took calcium from my body to make hermilk, I nursed her with my bones. The verb nurse means to carefor in illness, to drink too long a single drink, to keepa grudge too closely. Her cells and mine changed places,I extracted my elements to feed her. What could bewilder than the body of a mother? Believe in my bones the riskI feel. Weather the new war our culture tells us not to speakof. But my body knows to go outside in an earthquake, to huddledown when the wind blows. To bite. To keen. To howl.
Copyright © 2019 by Sasha West
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
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