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Preparing the Animal

I’ve been watching your hands

for weeks, watching the rain gather

its woolen shawl around the house,

while you sharpen tools, lay them out

and show me—gut hook, drop point, skinner, priest

what they can do, test each honed blade,

run the edge above your arm, close to skin,

just close enough that tiny hairs bend or fall.

When I was a girl, a boy showed me a knife

of steel I couldn’t believe, though he insisted

it was real, dared me to touch it.

I pressed my thumb to check its sharpness, certain

it was fake. I bled. The cut and sting

fine as the stream of water

he then held my hand in, so cold

it made me ache. What are we but sinew

and synapse, a system’s grim accumulation,

but softer? Soon, you will slit

the belly, you will enter with cupped hands

to loose the windpipe and split

breastbone, the structure falling

around the heart’s muscled knot. I know

you will work quickly, not to staunch the wound

but to bleed the body, to keep the meat, the hide,

will lay the body out, bless the knives—you, who cup my face

gently, who drag your fingers

through my hair, until I bend

or fall beside you.

from TeratologyFind it in the Library

Copyright © Persea Books 2015
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on behalf of Persea Books.

Published in Poems Susannah Nevison

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