Inheritance Cistern Sweet Dominion

They had their lightning thrones they had
their cages. They had their lamb pens and lamb
ties not just for lambs but for their own. As soon
as I understood the name of my skin sack
I was handed the chain. Was told by virtue
of my snow-lit skin I was Courtier
of the Chain. And could be Lord Chancellor
if I played my cards right. Dominion. We worked
the word over and over. We practiced with butterscotch
and Jolly Ranchers in the gold Honda. In the mile-long
yellow chariot that ferried us to the Coliseum.
So sweet. No need to bite down for the whole world
to hear you. No need to work your jaws
like an animal. To make yourself into an animal.

But also. Useful to think like an animal. To know
what that smelled like. That fear. My little skin
sack and really such a weakling who wept
over the stupidest things. Particularly
when waiting for the long yellow chariot.
I want to go home. To where? That was the rub.
No more home for me. If there ever was one.
I pitied myself. Little skin sack with the young wolves
circling in their gladiator suits. Heart refusing
to harden. But. The taste of hatred::

the sweet promise of that possible release.
In the annals of my light scroll when and if the
Light takes me back, it will be impossible to deny.
After the kicks and taunts. After hours eating
Salisbury steak over the toilet in the girls’
restroom. After the turnaway the plague
game, bottles of piss and spit thrown from passing
chariots as I made my way to the fairgrounds
on foot? They made a wager and let a lamb sack out
before me. And battered it. And battered it.
But all the while looking at me. Who laughed
along with them. My relief inexhaustible

as my desolation the next day when, having
shown myself to lamb and wolf entirely,
I was given my true calling. Which was exile
from every realm.

Copyright © 2020 by Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.