A Dictionary at the Periphery
On the day I was born, the moon’s phase
was waning crescent. No death
to sweeten like a side dish. No infant
to ease from its roughhewn crib and lay
among the savage rushes. No soft words. No
mouth to feed. No rope to hang from. No barn
to raze. The shock of me was an utter root,
cruel in parts. Gone as a body, vacuous and
black. Left bankrupt by the witnessing
I’d done, I made a fist and shook it
toward the world. Often blighted. Often
cold. Jagged, late, matted with moons,
aping a gray aroma of flesh, eyeteeth
of a she-wolf, urn of human ash.
A torn god, sad as seasons. Burnt offerings,
poured libations: the remedies I invented
were scented with abyss. Tongues to mourn
wonder with. A flex like heaven’s wings
to lash me to the mast, unmask me,
cradle me to sleep. The day I was made,
I was made veiled. Knee-deep in eucalyptus.
I was made scarved. To understand my wax
and wane, the hint of a sword mood stitching
in my breath, give me a heart of wastelands
or dirt. Eyes mutiny, bland mysteries
of anisette, hunting the char lodged within me.
Things drop stinking into beasts.
One cannot wilt. One shall not want.
I was the last animal at the lamp the night
man was born. Record me in the morgue’s lost books.
113 The Paris-American
Jennifer Militello is the author of Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press, 2013), Flinch of Song, winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award, and the chapbook Anchor Chain, Open Sail. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, The New Republic, The Paris Review, and Best New Poets 2008.
Next week's poet:
Darrel Alejandro Holnes