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Maya Jewell Zeller

From the Dictionary of Reclaimed Nouns—

Doula: (n), A Professional, Trained in Elegy

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Aren’t we taught (by tradition) to really feel up
that death fantasy

really eat the bacon of it
really push it against the wall of itself

get our hands in that skirt
get our tongues up in its utter

rudder, chop up our mouths
on it, its sharp consonant clicks

its blooming rose of poison
O string pull its marionette

sex machine death fantasy O
death fantasy

I’m not so much depressed as just “okay
with whatever,” quoting myself

surrounded by eels in 2015,
when my dreams knew before I knew—

Oh white fish why
are you thrashing

Let me try again: if you too are enthralled
in your death throes—

some killer killing you—
it might feel like an orgasm, little O—

O, lake girls, you know
what I mean,

your soap skulls and soft peninsula
pasts—pulling down the mountains,

you pushing the straw
with your snouts around the warm bodies

just resting, there between the waking
world and the river of wherever we go next—

please can we gather at the pig sty
of scalloped neck naming? Of Emily D

of D begat from E, mother of D and C,
like that Cat in the Hat sequence of littler felines

who come along to clean up the detritus
of the party? Isn’t life like that?

Someone crashing your dream wedding
in which you marry yourself, with their helicopter

way of getting in there,
all chopper and headset and the frantic thrashing?

Not the party but the constant after
when you feel the sadness come down on you

with its rubbed out corner of barn
and its time to put away the candles?

It’s true: I had a couple little cats
when I was alive

cool cats tapping their tap dance on the tiles
of my internal organs.

I’m so far from the fish now, decomposing
like a wandering novel. I think I meant it like

Atwood, a fish hook, an open eye
not the domestic kind not lace

or Catullus arranged by Hass, the Gregory
translation, I hate and I love. You may well

ask why. I don’t know. But I feel it and I suffer,
no, not that basic chant

but the Frank-middle name Desire-Bidart,
more to the point of my streaming heart:

I hate and love. Ignorant fish, who even
wants the fly while writhing.

I read it twice, thinking I must be the fish!,
I must be the fish. Never the fly

you heard while dying, and that’s my flaw:
I can’t have a feeling without becoming

all animal. Oh, friends. I get so in the struggle
with the moth dust and the lake and the scales

and just so trapped in a jar hooked on a line
so alive with the torture I can’t eat.

You know. If you’ve been
the subject of a rhymed couplet if you’ve

said I could just die—if you have that friend
who desires nothing but to be dumped,

nearly naked, into the deepest portion of the bay
where her public body will sleep

with the deep crevasse. Or I look up
from the book and there are the children:

Welcome to my museum of carcasses
they chant, no maypole—come over to the old wheel

where we keep the mouse body
and the cervidae hoof
. How are those dead

animals in the Dead Animal Museum, I ask
my fineggfurscale alive offspring,

and Oh! they say, it’s October, mama,
I think they rotted away!

From the Dictionary of Reclaimed Nouns—

Barn (n): a thing in a jar

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Wasn’t I bad? Pitching the hay out—
what kind of mushrooms they were, their little brown skirts flipped up, their leggy stems—
each in their own spring bale

Stayed after winter like a detention kid

Didn’t I have detention ever?
Didn’t I? Wasn’t I bad?
Did I mix it up spill it over did I take off its hay
clothes? Its twine winding the thin of it—

Sometimes, at a certain time of day, I can feel that old barn driving away into the fog field,
jumping the divots with its old grass flailing
like the grossest section of the Dollar Store–
you know–
where they keep the cheap China mops that look like the pile of garbage they will eventually
become. I always imagine the small hands

smoothing the plastic seams, burning their little fingers
like a sorority girl took off her hat,
like that. Like everything is in this store you need, including a wrench

with which you can strip
the whole tree down to its real root, the real root
is in there. Didn’t I pre-arrange my senior skip day?

Didn’t I learn to use a machete, a screw
driver, change a tire, oil, climb

a man like a tree and fell him?

Please don’t tell me you got it at the Dollar Store. Please
let something be straight out of the dirt, the kind
that lightning makes when it strikes sand, the kind
that grows in between bales when they mold all winter,
waiting their turn at light, those white
streaks of shroom that lit the skies,
like a bra strap slipped off
a shoulder, a broken pane,
that sharp shimmer of glass—

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