in spite of all wants / I am not a healer / I am not / penitent enough for the gods nor / resolute enough for the unbeliever / my childhood dog shakes, dying, while I do my best to patch his disparate / parts together: / I hold him against / my chest & cover his eyes with a blanket & hum / hoping / his deaf body feels the reverberations / but / he must still always die / & my chest, shifting / unbalanced
& altogether wrong / will remain that way / not that it matters. not / while tenderness is precise & / exacting yet never / surgical, & not while I can swallow / my gasps & breathe / through my skin. not / while poseidon, who puppets each / of my inhales crafts shallow / pools / of mucus in my lungs / & laughs at our / synchronized / anxious / wheezing / is this too much?
are my bones too hollow to be / of mammalian use? / if I remove my favorite / knuckle could you boil / a single-serving broth / drink it at midnight in your bare / numb feet / & learn the syllables trapped beneath my breasts? / would you share / that with me?
the removal of an unwanted mass is not destruction / but maintenance / & I do not need to reconcile / the part of me that begs / to heal / with the immutable / desire to terraform / the landscape of my body
[monologue regarding appalachia, recited to an empty room]
picture me: I bring the half-crushed deer skull up to eye level,
some boy-girl-other hamlet. it is late spring
and I am in love with the sound of the dead
corn stalks crunching under my boots—it is a good, ripe sound
that heralds the coming of vivid newness and when I inspect bones,
there are rules, questions to ask. first, the teeth:
are they sunk into the soft earth where the jaw lay to rest?
second, are the eye sockets gnawed by coyotes, whose
scavenging ways I respect?
third, what will you do with the life you can’t take back?
my skin breaks out in rashes whenever the weather shifts-
that’s how resistant my body is to change, how
the past looks, snow, alighting on grass too warm to hold
its shape—my face, my chest, stagnant while
the seasons snap in and out of place. picture me:
girl-prince of appalachia with a plan of action. first off, I make
ophelia my constant companion and lover
in the loving sense of the word,
second, I take her to the best view kentucky’s got. we watch the sun sink
low while we sink even lower and when the moon rises, we trade
clothes and walk to the nearby village and they call her
“sweet boy” and me “pretty girl,” and they weave dogwood in our hair
and when the clock strikes twelve I transform
back into pretty boy, her, sweet girl.
third, just before the night sky goes pale, bluegrass and daffodils
beneath our moon-shining toes, we see specters in the
snow, falling never settling soft you now
my father is not dead, only the ghost of some undefined
manliness passed on to me and my sisters to make
us dual out our shotgun revenge, but I am too transient, and they
are too sturdy, and the friction dissipates in inaction—accidental rebellion
picture me: I peer into the empty eye socket, expecting hollowness
and instead I am greeted by a wasp who has built its nest
in the half-dome, its legs tapping across the cranial suture,
looking for a fault line, something that might shift the stability
of what it has created. I don’t like wasps, but I’m trying to, so
I put the skull down and don’t pick it up again. it’s better
for me and this skull to part ways. I haven’t even prepared a soliloquy.
[I love you, good-night]
in the darkening pink-gray light,
the grazing deer is quieter than
the chickens who are quieter than
the cat, but only just. I am
anxious about a problem I cannot
recall, or perhaps it’s dysphoria, sitting
middle distance between my shoulder-
blades and sternum.
I wait for the fireflies. any minute
they will begin their gentle drifting
upwards. I used to visit my Grandpa
in Appalachia all summer when I was
small and marvel
at their bodies, this little light of mine—
must’ve presumed they were stepping heavenward.
God would’ve lost me much
sooner were it not for fireflies.
oh, here they are now-
the deer grazed on and
the chickens settled in their nesting boxes, but
the firefly searches for evangelion and never
makes it past the treetops.
I hope they’re well.
I hope you’re well.
I love you, good-night.
Wylde Parsley is a reluctant poet. Their work has appeared or is upcoming in ANMLY, Birdcoat Quarterly, Vagabond City Lit, Rio Grande Review, Every Day Fiction, and various other publications. He can be found on Twitter at @emjparsley.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.