Three Poems by Kiki Petrosino
This Is How We Feed the Animals
First, we name them: Blood-Beasts. Double They.
We sense them shining in our net of nerves.
Countless. Pelted. Their mint-smoke smell, closer
than we thought. This is how we track them
with our bone-dice & witching rods. How we dig
them a hole with the knives of our teeth. Will they
fall in? We wait. But when we look, nothing
has fallen. We throw some hay into the hole
to lure them. We lie down, thinking of their manes.
Soft in the sun. Filling our hands. This is how
we hold them in our minds: their slurred bodies
spring air whining so we can’t make out a word.
We think they have words. We think they secrete
a liquor from their tongues which is a cure.
This is how we kissed them once, in a season
of mystery between us. They wouldn’t stay
or eat anything from our hands. Only: some of us
have seen them, hanging their muzzles
over the fence-line. We seem to feel
their breath on our backs at night. This is how
we feel when the egg of sleep will not
break for us: Grief-Marked. Heart-Lost.
You died in the pith of August. You left us.
In rageful choke, in dust: you left us.
On your coffin lid: Going Home. A bluebird.
Its plastic banner melting down. You left us
in a welter of bells & holywater. The Word
of the Lord glazed shut the day. Like air, you left us
to our sweat & our complaints. To our swollen wood-
pulp tongues. Pressed into one car, we U-turned. Left
the wrong way home. No birds
quickened through the balding pines. You left us
to bleat & blister our way out. My own words
hung, paint-thick in my chest. Nothing you left us
made sense. Your college of clay cardinals, each bird
a tiny fist of silence. Is this what’s left of us
without you? Little engine, steel-hulled bird.
I was laughing, still in my pajamas, when you left us
for the fresh-peeled edge of space. You felt a sword
of light draw down your spine, & then—you left us
honeycombed, here. No words for the quiet slur
of days that have wept through the world since you left us.
And though I’m middle-named for you (Michelle, a word
for the warlike angel who salts the earth you left us
digging in) my first name knits a tighter cord:
Courteney, dark dweller, who waits where you left us.
was born / light girl free girl / each step blessed but
slant / hips tilted at top / of my walk-bones / an old
angle my mother the / same / her mother then / her
mother the same / walking / strange to ourselves /
even at night / walking then strange / under southern
pines or a dream / of pines / myself in straight / skirts
even / my hair cropped darkly / at the neck / on the
night road / whose pines / whose pines / hook at my
lungs / so I keen & low / for that home-place / blessed /
but blank that land / of trouble mine / or theirs / a
dream of them / in robes & crowns / beside me / some
my mothers / came up from there / & some / their
bodies sweetgum / stayed / only I go back / go forth /
light girl crammed / with light / my mothers say / tell
no one here / about us I tell / no one & their names /
press hard / into my palms / white webs of my palms
folding / somehow / strange to / myself
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