by Destiny Birdsong
Background photograph by Carla Ciuffo
You had me during my years of broken pills,
of dosage adjustments, of rages, of night terrors,
though I’d sleep for days in front of your fireplace
while you played video games. To the untrained eye,
it looked as if I was groveling at your feet.
You can have those years, and with them the power
to pose me, each memory—I cannot choose what gets to move against you wearing
my skin. But that’s what you hunted, right?
What you stalked, split open, and only you
knew the end: that you would not keep what mattered: blood and bone.
Mount an effigy for your friends, your family.
Suck your teeth with them over how crazy I must be
by now. Paint me in my most pathetic scenes:
on my knees, or striking your face—always pleading.
You could predict the fever by its sheen of sweat,
mimic my doctor’s voice—his murmuring apologies.
Even now, grief has tempered me as you said it would. Finally, I am taking shape. I’m on your mantel.
I tug the air around you with an outstretched paw. You hold the clavicle of a different girl.
Yes, you handled me, plucking my ovaries,
unbraiding muscle from spine like it was the humane thing to do.
But in the evenings near-darkness and cool, I crawl through grass. The blades sting my nipples like mounting pins.
My breath slivers around me—blown glass.
A carcass crackles open like an exoskeleton.