My argument is in the shape of an elk.
Consider their size and heft, horses fit for wall racks,
each body a velvet muscle cut from the chest
and left to flex in the summer heat.
Or the antlers’ swift growth, each pair
branching out and shedding velvet
until, full-grown, the skull plate sets,
the bone locked like a forest door.
Tangle us in a youthful rut.
We have not set yet.
The antler felt strips off
as the horn bases calcify.
Time shucks a man. My skin
hangs off the bone
like a forgotten flag.
It’s getting harder to believe in names.
The tour guide tells us wild elks die within 5 to 10 years
due to starvation, predation, and steel’s disease.
Captive elks live long past 20.
How can we even speak of freedom?
I am 23 years old. Am I loosed
upon the world? Has the world kept me?
These are old ideas of being free.
Bound to a body,
smelling our way through a carcass
to find the sweetest fruit, ruminants
left to devour what’s already within us,
our velvet ruins swung down
like a tattered veil, a scrim
between heaven and hell
before it’s stripped away
and our horns spurn it’s softness.
This is where I find you
and leave you,
nose bloodied and boldened with song.
You are the sharp line of mud
caked on the elk hoove.
You are the legumes
stored in the first stomach,
squirreled away, and I am the muscle
that pushes the food
back up the throat, to chew
when safe and ashamed;
potato chips in church.
Something has got to change.
You are late to the everyday,
a girl in a herd of black sheep.
This is where I find you and leave you,
sudden as a hand on the neck.
A new frame: my face between the metal bars
of an elk farm. I am face to snout with one.
Air stops circulating. The chickens are suspect.
We share the same eyes, color and all.
I am staring at my attempt to be serious,
albeit briefly, in the face of an animals
that has gored the gods. He is thinking
about fruit. As though our meeting
has anything to do with thought.
We stand mammalian, flush with the thump of blood.
Even now I remember turning to the antlers
racked along the barn door,
sharp and silent as weapons.
n. A mythical race of people supposed to have lived at the southern edge of the ancient Greek and Roman world, who each had a single leg ending in a foot of immense size with which they shaded themselves from the heat of the sun.
Image: Woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle by Michel Wolgemut, Wilhelm Pleydenwurff. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Growth is painful. Change is painful.But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.
Mandy Hale (via thatkindofwoman)