Like Any Carcass – Elizabeth Kohler

When I see dead animals,
I think of you—unbearable

fixated truths, a housecat splashed
across a breakdown lane.

The sun spits in my face, the air
is a vile oven. There is a dog

on a trash heap, ballooned belly,
heart in mouth like an apple

in a roasted pig. Flies unravel
around the body. A chained,

swollen-eyed horse stands outside the smashed
cathedral. I tug a burr from his mane,

and later in the village
my stomach forgets

as I suck out the eye of a fish
over my lunch platter—

most concentrated source of Vitamin E,
says my friend. Good for stretch marks,

I think of my scarred belly,
the way you sometimes

oinked and leered at me as I sat
stony before my dessert plate,

asked me if I really needed that
extra scoop after huffing

and puffing the whole way
up the mountain. How I am glad

to huff and puff
up these mountains

with a confident stagger
and muscular limbs. How I am

glad to peel your footprints off
my face and chest like dried

candle wax in these badlands
and your words caught

in my dry throat, how
even across an entire ocean

you burn me. I roll
a pocket of water
over my tongue as the call
to prayer reaches more

bowed and unbowed heads
I can bother to count. Your carcass,

like any carcass, is even harder
to stare down in broad daylight.

I make it look easy. I take the
squirrels you killed with rocks,

hang them on a clothesline with
your violin strings; they dangle

like silent wind chimes
or women. I cover my nose

and the weeping dries up in me
the way it does in a child,

crouched behind the toolshed,
when she squeezes her beloved bird

so hard his lungs don’t make
a sound when they pop

and the bird
doesn’t even cry.

Elizabeth Kohler works on farms and lives in coastal Maine.

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