I3 Spica


They ate the horses first, thin with sheet-ice
and mountain grass, stale,
though the dogs were next, who went happily
to the knife, beneath those children screaming
to the empty rocks and basin—
the long Nevada.
The cats, too, who followed them from Colorado
for their fishbone and buffalo skins
were next to be ripped raw from the hip,
though there was little to them
        and no fire for the blackening of their sides.

What then to eat for Donner, for dinner,
for his wife who dreamed of goose and onion,
bread rising sticky in the flour bowl,
her mother’s Missouri butter
the color of new bed linen,
of milk-saucer, of lace.
Bury the bones of your son in the snow
and keep his hair, gone dull,
in your pockets,
twisted ’round your neck,
        forget the gray of thigh and tongue.

I think of this when the sow eats her children,
one by one, leaves their sour hooves in her hay
and wails against the back barn wall for days.
From the house we hear her, desperate,
calling with the meat and song of her stomach.
She’s too stupid to know what she’s done but
she knows she has done something, knows
from the silence of loft and pen,
fills it with the breaths of her own breast.
My sisters gather the relics of backbone and knee
and bury them in a coffee can beyond the barn,
        where the goats wander in fresh May.

But I have seen in watercolor the folds of cannibal kings,
their glowing, greasy faces full
of enemy, teeth wrapped about their throats
and wrists, as garlands, rosaries.
How proud of their feasts they are,
their bone-thrones, sending out to the ether their
greedy gladness, the howls of their victory.
I have wondered, what of mercy knows
that wide mouth? Perhaps this only:
the bringing of bones to altar—
        the kiss of daughter’s cheek.

I think of this when the sow eats her children,
one by one, leaves their sour hooves in her hay
and wails against the back barn wall for days.
From the house we hear her, desperate,
calling with the meat and song of her stomach.
She’s too stupid to know what she’s done but
she knows she has done something, knows
from the silence of loft and pen,
fills it with the breaths of her own breast.
My sisters gather the relics of backbone and knee
and bury them in a coffee can beyond the barn,
        where the goats wander in fresh May.

But I have seen in watercolor the folds of cannibal kings,
their glowing, greasy faces full
of enemy, teeth wrapped about their throats
and wrists, as garlands, rosaries.
How proud of their feasts they are,
their bone-thrones, sending out to the ether their
greedy gladness, the howls of their victory.
I have wondered, what of mercy knows
that wide mouth? Perhaps this only
the bringing of bones to altar—
        the kiss of daughter’s cheek.

I’ve never seen a boy
quite so ugly
since Jason Kim
got into his father’s factory acid
and had his head wrapped up
for weeks.
This boy who sits
Saturdays
at the library steps
like a boy king
who hasn’t yet died
of typhus,
but will soon,
reads I don’t know what
and the bums ask him
for money and he gives them
just what he has,
sometimes dimes, sometimes
less. He’s too short,
a joke,
like a soufflé that fell
in the oven but goes
to the table anyway,
because it’s what’s for dinner,
though no one looks at it
for it isn’t polite to acknowledge
such mistakes.
Perhaps he’ll know love,
won’t get married but know love
with such ache
and hunger
he’ll lose his ears over it—
it’s just so loud,
what ears could bear it?
Naked before the bathroom mirror
he’ll be ugly,
and in the living room
he’ll press his head to piano back
for the silver moon
of God’s throat.

Helen Spica is a native of Michigan, living and writing in Boston, Massachusetts. She writes both poetry and short fiction
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