by Elizabeth Kolenda
Elizabeth Kolenda is a poet living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She has served as Editor in Chief for New Delta Review and tweets @partyantithesis. Her work has appeared in YES Poetry, Peach Mag, Bomb Cyclone, and Burning House Press.
This poem was shortlisted for the 2020 Peach Gold in Poetry with guest judge ALOK.
to sleep and imagine something sharper inside
The larkspur stacks so neatly, like a straw house. Like a pile of sticks in a cairn. The twelve bones of my ribs are the house and the animal inside the house. Disastrous. The bone pile is fallible wear precious, the bone pile is nothing and something sewed up to the tiniest particle wobbling.
I am told to make another and another. From one body a cacophony, no fewer than twelve perfect mouths a breast for each mouth pulsing quietly with colostrum. The flesh of my areola is wearing away to nothing, the way that each element is privately nothing (and the sky is just a lot of nothing) in the palms of my nothing hands. Oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus, iron and magnesium and the stuff that floods between my legs onto her tongue.
The pink tuck, the angular bud, saliva sieve that gathers up her edges. First a prick of the spine then they’re placing a congregation of cells, sea-built and sediment into my arms, the rush of such a lump existing and in existing, screaming. Our mouths touch to make the first boundary.
An opening through bone attaching ganglia to neuron, neuron to blackout and on and on. In the morning I reach to lift her from where she sleeps but she is gone. The way a body is nothing the way a pile of bones is nothing the way the last streaks of bloody morning to the shallow are nothing.
In the temporal mud, in the crack just along the fuse, to lift and touch and hold the remains, to feel the body as lacuna, as socket, the bones and viscera and filaments as objects left behind by the breath.
Bones in the muddy water. Slut sucking fish scales from duck weed. I’ll make my jaw a cave for carp. Keep touching me. Keep opening up like that. The alimentary, the sweet bacterial balustrade the nucleotides mouthing out mom mom mom it’s easy to be this easy, this cellular daydream of decay, makes the tendrils
of me swell and pump and come even harder.
Disastresse. In this version our gonads never distinguish and lips line our plump cavities pump every kind of hormone or sometimes no hormone. Follicular dividing at an alarming clip the talons of no thing quick quick quick to make another and another.
And still a body is not my body the skin sloughing off too quickly to mark a tenderness a delicate mouthful of a clue, what, a name? Is that all? Am I expected to keep breathing for you to make the tongue this circular monument to keep lapping at the seam of skin between your fount and
the mound of necrotic tissue, almost fleshy and good and slick but barely breathing, hooked into diffractionary motes and blinking.
And still the leeches are a reminder, make another and another, a theater of gloved fingers reaching into my absolute dimension, my luminary slick with vernix molting, mouthing oh it’s like this a dull thump a lolling, a restive, a lip of a jelly and every manner of sentient thing shall be well and every manner of non-sentient thing shall be wobbling through this birthing room. Constant. To be nothing like a fat waxy honeycomb is nothing nothing at all
Bodies in the root cellar. Bodies in the trees. Naked from the waist up tit fucking breeze, legs spreading, copperhead keep swallowing me, keep calling me beastie, your slaggy wet understory. Tricky amygdala flooding the current of memory, to suck the throbbing thing to spit out the blood. To back inward slowly, time’s teeth deep in my cunt the full smack of the dead dead night.
Ecclesiastic. In the blue light barely a whimper the piles of fur and damp leaves the gush of menses the lapse like a rhythmic bleating the stuck thing streaming make another make another catecholamine, a brute, a blade, stung me.
And still hyper aroused by the revenant pussy, shivering fingers deep in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal quarry, telltale mammalian mother hyper-meridian hybrid, cortisol level me, cortisol electrify me keep jacking me up norepinephrine I am glowing I
am hovering I am singing make another
make another this one is fat and good and salty devoted to me but trembling in the nursery she is bright and brimming and still the tyrosine a reminder of what I came here for, rigid, ridged, divine, dopamine the feral the terminal something unequivocal the touch of tongue to bone, the low hum, delirious, a bright wrist bound to the cellar floor.
A rotten service. A traitor noon, lit corpulent marked mouthless the twine the binding plea sucking seconds, uvula tightening minutes to swallow hours and I came here to fuck time, to reach into the swamp and pluck my baby girl free.
Now close your eyes sweet baby, we all someday die my baby, the purple martin the night heron, the microbial mat blacking out the blink of sun. There are words I cannot sing, I cannot sing her tongue but may describe the epiglottis. Abducted vocal arch full of saw grass. I cannot
speak of sound but the shape of her acoustic meatus. Out darts a minnow. Temporal theory of hearing: she hears the minnow darting out of her skull based on the rhythmic firing of neurons. If her neurons are being digested by the swamp then the swamp is her neuro-network.
Synapse fire on the scale of the ancient cypress. She hears the minnow dart out of her acoustic meatus from everywhere at once, she hears it in the past and in the future. The minnow’s path makes a neural node all its own. Her teeth relax around the saw grass to make another make an other
In the wake the channel insists. Fill me up, give me something to bite with, I lay splayed on a table asking if she feels anything moving. No, the teeth have all been removed so I come softly undone it’s a mess to be so open. Beneath the table an array of smooth metal tools, but which ones are for suturing, which for plucking.
I’ve waited mighty long to feel the kick of nothing but if you’ve been listening you know that all girls are waiting to be found in the woods. Under a pile of damp leaves, leaking cranial fluids into the underbrush. In the morning there is trillium blooming from an eye socket, in the morning I become a vernal pool. It is instinctual, to sleep and imagine something sharper inside