Soul and silence. Blood and cloth.
Meat beneath the knife. The stone
the knife was hewn from, heaved
into the ocean and sunk past sight.
When she says she wants to hover
underwater in the tub until the sun
sucks up the earth and the bath salts
mummify her dark-stubbled skin,
you’ll want to call her crazy. Don’t.
Instead, call her the stop motion
scattering of a mandala’s sands.
Stinging nettle sundae, bone jalopy,
pocket full of eggs. A single egg smacked
into a seasoned pan, turning hard
and yellow as the timer snaps onward.
Last one in. Odd one out. Outer ring
of a frosted planet, formed by the dust
that meteorites knock from dead
winter rock. Eye to the sky. Eye turned
back in the head, regarding the sweet
weeping rind of the brain. Little lentil
buried in a steaming king’s cake.
When daughters die, it is their names
and not bluebottles that rumba across
the caving stomachs and chew their spleens
down to the pulp. So call your daughter
dissolution, tail-swallowing snake, but
do not fail to call her something
lest she calcify. At last resort,
name her the wordless, terrifying
scream of a barking owl after the stars
have replaced porch lights. It means hunger
and fortune to those with slipshod hearts.
In your absence, I have taken to visiting
my friend Zoë’s rabbits. She has two--
a doe and a buck. They have formed
a bonded pair, which means they groom
each other and thump their hind legs
when they are put in different rooms.
I’ve found that if I lie among the musty
timothy hay with an arm stretched out
they’ll nose into my palm, brush it with
their small dry tongues. Lately, I’ve dared
to scoop up the smaller, gentler buck
by his belly and hold him tight against me
to feel how he goes limp in my arms
like a human child, sleeping and warm.
I never touch anyone anymore. I listen to
the clockwork march of rabbit hearts instead.
Last night, you called me to say your day
was good—that the low-hanging clouds
had finally cleared away and you ate dinner
at your rich uncle’s house, where they served
rice and braised rabbit. If you couldn’t tell,
that’s what made me drop my mug and grasp
at my hair, my shoulder, the tender hollow of
my elbow. As always, you waited on the line
for the erratic pace of my breathing to slow
to a soft fuzz. Then we spoke blindly
at one another until it was late and nothing
left but the old maxims, which I pronounced
like blessings over a small, stilled body.
Anna Kelley is an MFA student at Syracuse University.