always inside you
You are. You
you. See: when you
see: what. The needle
to the record. The pine
needles. Prolong this. Thistled
road. Spruced road. The spider’s long
arms. Take the hand. It lines its lies in life lines.
The spider wants to be alive and you.
The water the tub held.
What was poured? You were
the salt the water turned
briny the hands spider
the branch the hand
the mother’s hand
the tap before or
after her hands
turned the tap
You smell hands.
You break back.
You knot & needle
& spine & you
still haven’t learned
to swim. Your memory
is briny. Our memory is
the needle you break the needle you
_ _________ crack the branch that lands the hand
_____ that splits the back that spiders
_____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ the hands that bends the back
want your back smooth want your back back
_____ _____ _____ _____ you are not up against a wall—
Learn to swim. Learn to you.
You. You. You. Are.
What. The lines.
After Joel Rea’s “Pursuit Under Silver Skies”
Day Zero: what the children said
when we ran stark mad from the smoky eyed dog fear of the dog’s bite did not push our feet to flight we worshipped the bite we fed our bodies to feed the animal it is us bloodhungry we wanted its hot slick sharp teeth breaking our flesh we wanted it to ache for our bones we ran from our human self from our parents we feared our open palms would turn violent would recoil into fist would turn against the beast that is our brain would snarl & break that animal this earth is our earth our parents taught us to chant until our brains would lock our feet we were told could silence any animal come charging after us without our permission
Day 12: the adults continue their lessons with the children
her bite will be cat—domestic—trained—domestic—tender—the rage just beneath—domestic—the space between tongue &—domestic hunger—between memory & saliva—domestic—her bite will wrestle with—domestic knowing—her fingers will feed
_____ the bite— —heavy the impulse
Day 13: “what, anyway,/was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood[i]”
I beg her not so hard no there my finger meets her teeth stranger against stranger in the slick raven night I rub the place her teeth have been leave my mark where her mark has been in the morning my mark is memory hers impression I sit myself astride her face and beg her to bite until blood quickens prime myself for the primacy the possibility of morning’s puncture
Day 24: the sightline is hazy
Camp Counselor can swallow a sour pickle whole. She demonstrates this skill to the adults hanging at the reception desk. The young boys have stopped playing but Camp Counselor doesn’t see them. She holds the pickle at its base and rolls her tongue along the tip. The young boys have put down their paddles, the tiny white airy pocked balls have fallen silently to the floor. Camp Counselor doesn’t see them. She silently opens her mouth pushes the pickle half in, closes her lips and the boys have stopped playing. The pimple pocked putty foose balls, stuck under a pawn’s flattened feet, stays put. The rods have stopped spinning. Camp Counselor doesn’t see this. She pulls the pickle from her mouth and swallows. She tells us there’s a secret to this. A flattening of the tongue. Camp Counselor is fifty-one. It is 97 degrees out; her eighteen year old son hangs out at the door. His friends’ cocks tighten & he thinks of baseball and interstates to keep his own cock still. Camp Counselor flattens her tongue, purses her lips, takes the pickle in whole. The young boys have forgotten to play. Their flat eyes are smoky, waiting to bite.
Day 25: the girls discuss Camp Counselor’s lesson
the first serrated cutting the second serrated cutting
_____ the second serrated cutting the third now indistinguishable
_____ the pressure
_____ _____ __ the hand the pressure the ending
Day 25: the men, the roosters, & the boys in the open field
The cock performs as its owner—
when it’s young, it sparks outward;
even flaccid it is temperamental,
assertive, ready to be charged with an action!
It is present alive! alive! alive!
When the cock tells itself it is old,
much like the man burdened
with hauling it around, its softness
insults its tender wrinkles, suffuses
its ability to spark—flaccid it retracts
into folds softer softer softer—it only
ever imagined a woman’s skin this
soft this pliable this given to hiding. . .
The cock, much like its owner,
is time—either it creates bite or is
contained by bite. . .
Day 26: the animals gather in the woods
“The voice of my education said to me/He must be killed”[ii]
Day 28: the children are taught the story of mating
Look at the dogs, fighting for that one bitch. Eventually one if not both will have her. That corner she’s huddling in won’t protect her. She might as well come on out & take it like a bitch. When she’s filled up with puppies, they’ll leave her alone. Only then.
Day 30: the children in the closed fields
“so far/i am the only animal[iii].”
_____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ the bite
the break at the break
_____ the breach at the break
the breath behind the break
_____ the pressure the pressure the pressure
to pursue the break
The fly getting closer to death contemplates
_____ Once I sat on her shoulder & she blew me off
_____ Will the human ever raise the strong panes
_____ What does it mean to leave the human, to return to the outside
_____ So much threaded light from the screens the beveled glass the bulbs
_____ Once I flew right into her glasses and landed dazed on her nose
_____ Beyond the house lies another world one without the human
_____ Inside there is space contained and easy to navigate
_____ At night the human provides me with unnatural suns
_____ Once I watched her prepare dinner so lovingly
_____ Now I stay at the window that illuminates her meals
_____ To stay here is to have a human to leave is to be without
_____ Late at night the only light filters in from outside & I learn to stray
[i] The quoted lines from section 4 are from Galways Kinnell’s “The Bear”
[ii] The quoted lines in section 7 from D.H. Lawrence’s “The Snake”
[iii] The quoted lines from section 9 are from Lucille Clifton’s “leaving fox”
Metta Sáma is author of After After/After Sleeping to Dream (Nous-zot Press) & Nocturne Trio (YesYes Books). Her poems have appeared in Redleafpoetry, Apogee, Transitions, Bone Bouquet, Pyrta, among others. She is currently completing The Year We Turned Dragon, a collection of prose poems & fables.