she told me she’d distinguished the soul of a gator
by the taste of its spine, by how many taste buds
tore off upon it, ravenous. then she laughed
until a nymph spat out.
i married the swamp for nothin’ but its mania.
she said it’s the closest we can come to your mouth.
she begged me to one day bury her in the ozarks.
somewhere there’s a licked-open cow gut, brandishing a voice
and face and hands, poeming: naw sugar, i just want to be loved.
somewhere a farmer is touching himself sober in the stalks.
somewhere a buzz of feathers and flies ensures nothing goes to waste.
somewhere, there you are, biting into barbecue sauce draped on a rib.
you tell me you know he loved you. listened. gave everything he’s got.
sometimes you rattle into my mind and I want to pull the car over
and mold myself an ax. they say we’re dust, right? we can cry ourselves
into mud, reshape our bodies, harden at noon. i was born a missing jewel,
natural as the swamp.
she was my favorite nurse. 1984. she wasn’t scared by my body.
she didn’t twist her mouth, proclaim my beauty through one eye.
when she spoke, her voice buzzing, i sunk into the bayou.
my blood cooled. my lips molten leather.
a beaten girl curls up under him, croons of a sweet jesus.
exhaled smoke unveils the exit lights.
the field misses her hands.
the scarecrows tell me they hang themselves.
i found a letter in the bayou, in the remains of a molded ax.
it was all in Arabic, the same as my name.
at the end, a voice: