Petting Zoo

We pay to enter the dirty
pen. We buy small bags of feed
to feed the well-fed animals. We are
guests in their home, our feet
on their sawdust floor. We pretend
not to notice the stench. Theirs
is a predictable life. Better,
I guess, than the slaughter,
is the many-handed god. Me?
I’m going to leave here, eat
a body that was once untouched,
and fed, then gutted and delivered
to my table. Afterwards, I’ll wash
off what of this I can. If I dream
it will be of the smallest goat,
who despite her job, flinched
from most of the hands. Though
she let me touch her, she would not
eat from my palm. In my dream,
she’ll die of old age
and not boredom.

More by Nicole Homer

Underbelly

Wouldbelove, do not think of me as a whetstone
until you hear the whole story:

In it, I’m not the hero, but I’m not the villain either
so let’s say, in the story, I was human

and made of human-things: fear
and hands, underbelly and blade. Let me

say it plain: I loved someone

and I failed at it. Let me say it
another way: I like to call myself wound

but I will answer to knife. Sometimes
I think we have the same name, Notquitelove. I want

to be soft, to say here is my underbelly and I want you
to hold the knife, but I don’t know what I want you to do:

plunge or mercy. I deserve both. I want to hold and be held.  

Let me say it again, Possiblelove: I’m not sure
you should. The truth is: If you don’t, I won’t

die of want or lonely, just time. And not now, not even
soon. But that’s how every story ends eventually.

Here is how one might start: Before. The truth?
I’m not a liar but I close my eyes a lot, Couldbelove.

Before, I let a blade slide itself sharp against me. Look
at where I once bloomed red and pulsing. A keloid

history. I have not forgotten the knife or that I loved
it or what it was like before: my unscarred body

visits me in dreams and photographs. Maybelove,
I barely recognize it without the armor of its scars.

I am trying to tell the truth: the dreams are how
I haunt myself. Maybe I’m not telling the whole story:

I loved someone and now I don’t. I can’t promise
to leave you unscarred. The truth: I am a map

of every blade I ever held. This is not a dream.
Look at us now: all grit and density. What, Wouldbelove

do you know of knives? Do you think you are a soft thing?
I don’t. Maybe the truth is: Both. Blade and guard.

My truth is: blade. My hands

on the blade; my hands, the blade; my hands
carving and re-carving every overzealous fibrous

memory. The truth is: I want to hold your hands
because they are like mine. Holding a knife

by the blade and sharpening it. In your dreams, how much invitation
to pierce are you? Perhapslove, the truth is: I am afraid

we are both knives, both stones, both scarred. Or we will be.

The truth is: I have made fire
before: stone against stone. Mightbelove, I have sharpened

this knife before: blade against blade. I have hurt and hungered
before: flesh

against flesh. I won’t make a dull promise.

Related Poems

Goat, Cow, Man

After the mob murdered the man for eating
a cow, it was found to be meat
from a goat. Why can I not
stop thinking about it—
the stringy flesh inside his gut,
and the microbes run riot when his heart
stopped—how fast they started
breaking down the blood-clotted
muscle of his stomach, slick intestines,
as though they were meant
to destroy the evidence of human—what
can I call it? sin? the curse of certainty? some twist
in the helix that insists on splitting
us apart?—the cow is not the goat. I am not
you. The man is a few inches of old newsprint,
a knot of hair, eye sockets,
but I keep picturing that
kitchen, his wife and children stuttering,
it’s goat, it’s goat,
and the goat, her white
coat, the little kernels of her teeth,
her pale slitted eyes.