You, who have bowed your head, shed another season of antlers at my feet, for years you fall asleep to the lullabies of dolls, cotton-stuffed and frayed, ears damp with sleep and saliva, scalps knotted with yarn, milk-breath, and yawns. Birth is a torn ticket stub, a sugar cone wrapped in a paper sleeve, the blackest ice. It has been called irretrievable, a foreign coin, the moon’s slip, showing, a pair of new shoes rubbing raw your heel. I lose the back of my earring and bend the metal in such a way as to keep it fastened to me. In the universe where we are strangers, you kick with fury, impatient as grass. I have eaten all your names. In this garden you are blue ink, baseball cap wishbone, pulled teeth, wet sand, hourglass. There are locks of your hair in the robin’s nest and clogging the shower drain. You, who are covered in feathers, who have witnessed birth give birth to death and watched death suck her purple nipple. You long for a mother like death’s mother, want to nurse until drunk you dream of minnows swimming through your ears—their iridescence causing you to blink, your arms twitching. Even while you sleep I feed you.
I was newly naked: aware of myself
as a separate self, distinct from dirt and bone.
I had not hands enough,
and so, finally, uncrossed my arms.
In trying to examine one body part,
I’d lose sight of another. I couldn’t
imagine what I looked like during
the fractured angles of sex.
At the river’s edge, it was impossible
to see all of myself at once.
I began to understand nakedness
as a feeling.
It was a snake, loose and green;
it was the snake skin, coiled and discarded.
The shedding chained itself
like a balloon ribboned to a child’s wrist.
Morning’s birdsong reminded me
of the sloughing off of skin.
The rumored beauty of my husband’s first
wife never bothered me before.
I missed the sensation of being fixed
in amber. Then the hair in the comb,
fingernail clippings, the red mole on my
left breast grown suddenly bigger.
I perceived my likeness in everything:
the lines on my palm as the veins
of a leaf, my mind as a swarm of flies
humming over something sugary or dead,
my vulnerability as the buck
I’d kill then wrap myself inside,
my hair as switchgrass, twine, and nest,
a roving cloud my every limb.