You are like a war novel, entirely lacking female characters, except for an occasional letter that makes one of the men cry. I am like a table that eats its own legs off because it’s fallen in love with the floor. My frantic hand can’t find where my leg went. You can play the tourniquet. A tree with white limbs will grow here someday. Or maybe a pup tent that’s collapsed in on itself, it so loves the sleep of men sleeping beneath it. The reason why women dislike war movies may have something to do with why men hate romantic comedies: they are both about war. Perhaps I should live in a pig’s trough. There, I’d be wanted. There, I’d be tasted. When the mail bag drops from the sky and lands heavy on the jungle floor, its letters are prepared to swim away with your tears. One letter reads: I can barely feel furtive. The other: I am diminishing.
First published in The Kenyon Review New Series, Summer 2004, Vol. XXVI, No. 3. Copyright © Cate Marvin. Reprinted with permission of the author.
Near the entrance, a patch of tall grass.
Near the tall grass, long-stemmed plants;
each bending an ear-shaped cone
to the pond’s surface. If you looked closely,
you could make out silvery koi
swishing toward the clouded pond’s edge
where a boy tugs at his mother’s shirt for a quarter.
To buy fish feed. And watching that boy,
as he knelt down to let the koi kiss his palms,
I missed what it was to be so dumb
as those koi. I like to think they’re pure,
that that’s why even after the boy’s palms were empty,
after he had nothing else to give, they still kissed
his hands. Because who hasn’t done that—
loved so intently even after everything
has gone? Loved something that has washed
its hands of you? I like to think I’m different now,
that I’m enlightened somehow,
but who am I kidding? I know I’m like those koi,
still, with their popping mouths, that would kiss
those hands again if given the chance. So dumb.
From Scale. Copyright © 2017 by Nathan McClain. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Four Way Books, www.fourwaybooks.com.