Anne Champion and Jenny Sadre-Orafai
This is only for animals who haven't been
scraped up by taxidermists. Armadillo armor
shines in every Texas sun. We risk leprosy,
we cradle them—so many curled babies.
The first question when they wake up:
was it deliberate? We have to answer yes.
They need to be taught keep out. They roll
into themselves when we say it.
They straighten out when they’re done being dead.
Replace animals who didn't choose
to lose their song. In their places are
the leaping green who had to watch
themselves croon (silk in pools)
and then fall into chemicals made
to keep water clean. Fetched from
buckets burping beside chlorined water,
splayed deaths in the summer.
The others have homes again and croaks
they keep away from poisoned water.
Moths can be dead people. They bring
their bodies, furry, twitchy, to you—
on sun breaks between cutting hair.
You wear them on your wrists. Train
them to be stand-in earrings. I can't teach
you how to talk to them just like you can't
teach me how to make hair into ocean.
Your bedroom lights flick on, the smoke
alarm blares when you've held too many,
when there's been too much sun. Wrap
your clothes up. You made them hungry
for what humans have, for what they had.
SPELL FOR WORRY
You must cast it out—it’s worse than demon possession
or haunted houses and harder to rid. A priest can’t uncoil
its suffocating grip. Sage can’t snuff its gasping.
Once you realize that what life can give you is worse
than you can imagine, it takes root like a tumor.
As a child, a friend returned from Mexico with pouches
of worry dolls. She gave you one, fingertip height, bits
of colorful yarn spun around wire—too small,
you thought, to carry the burden of all that paralyzed.
Still, before you placed her under your pillow,
you held her tiny mouth to the pain and tried
to confess, though your tongue broke off
like brittle chalk. You couldn’t shape it
into anything but a question: What should I do
with my mind? A tiny voice whispered back:
Keep replaying the way it broke
until you can watch yourself break
without a flinch, as muted as bone.
SPELL FOR A GASH
Find the exit wound, trace your fingertip
around its edges, kneel to the red crown
of the carnal. Dip your finger in its ink
and paint your body, mark yourself
with symbols of ancient ancestors.
Hieroglyphics of pain. You don’t know
anything about power until
you can turn yourself inside out.