Issue 2:1 | Poetry | Sara Pennington
EATING IS A RISKY BUSINESS
EATING IS A RISKY BUSINESS
what might happen while youve got your beak
pressed in the mesh picking out thistle,
or what might befall you, your head
bent over a salt block, a clump
of tender fern tendrils, a gazelle carcass.
Why eat when you might die eating? Or maybe
youll miss a poem, a proper thought, the sight
of chickadees, blue jays, and cardinals jockeying,
fighting, for position at the feeder
you put out last week. Or you might fail
to hear the deer rooting through the trash.
God told the Israelite soldiers to drink
from cupped hands, attentive; that lapping
like dogs from the river might kill them.
Nourishment is nothing
if not a necessary distraction. But hunger--
that river you see running under
the skin at the soft inside of your elbow,
its urgent lapping like a dogs tongue at the walls
of your stomach, raw, irritated--hunger
demands your attention like a red-tailed hawk
youve not seen before preening in your yard,
or a platoon, well-armored and armed, bearing down
on you from the hillside, and you busy, watching
the birds in your binoculars, caught off guard.
I am those three hundred
those serrated turkey vulture
wings. And I am the horizon,
a sluggish hover. Wind-pressed
against a twiggy net of hillside
yesterday I swarmed, oil-black
like box elder bugs. I was
that lustrous breeding on your garage
wall last month. I hung there,
teeming like those middle-school
fight-circles. Even then,
I would watch you plowing
through those crowds, gawking
at your shoes. You still dont know
what to look at, do you?
Beside your salt block, the milkweeds
poked stiff between my shoulders.
I dangled from your barbed wire.
The middle strand of rusty stars
ripped the secret skin of my thigh.
Myopic, I forgot 50 yards of time.
Silhouettes of women hung
in the medusa-hair of trees, black
but shimmering, eels swimming
in a milky aquarium. That swollen scar
still arcs between my legs. You have no idea
what Im doing now. Can you possibly
be that sharp-eyed?
Blurry, you fumbled
toward me through whirling spokes,
gathering those dozens of murky crows.
Forget that it sounds exactly
like it sounds to them--that you got her
pregnant when she was fifteen
and now youre getting divorced. What they hear
is only an echo of what we know--
like the replica of my voice
calling back at me when I would holler
for you to come to dinner as kids, the sun
pressing its way through the comb
of trees on the hilltop--
as if they were a neighbor, missing
my original call out to you and hearing
only my voice bouncing toward them
from the wrong direction.
And forget about the sound
of her telling you
that there wasnt anybody else,
that things had just changed,
like something seismic, unexpected,
as if getting older and bored with you
And forget that they
always expected what you saw last night:
her making out in the grocery store
parking lot with the baseball coachs
You didnt know your life was shifting,
exactly, in the way
all those others always figured it would--
a landslide breaking away
from the slope, a fragment
gathering force in its separateness. You
only wanted a beautiful girl who laughed
at your jokes to love you and, someday,
to live with you among these hills,
among these reverberating hollows.