by Brandon Thurman
My husband praises my fingernails,
how long they are, how pink, but when
I have to clip them, they skitter up into a pile
that makes him gag. At the vegan bakery
today, hundreds of miles from home, I found
an eyelash stuck to my tart cherry muffin.
For some reason, I didn’t ask to speak
to the manager. I just brushed it off
as I would’ve from my own son’s cheek.
Why are our bodies hardwired for disgust
of what they leave behind? The first time
I saw a dead body, it was just two feet
sticking out from under the blanket
the policeman had draped there. I froze
there for too long. I couldn’t stop counting
the shoes. I couldn’t make it all add up.
I thought of the old church ladies
sprawled flat at the foot of the altar,
with their pantyhose & floral silk skirts,
how they’d kicked off their high heels
to declare that ugly carpet holy ground.
My father went around spreading altar cloths
over their legs. He told me they’d been slain
in the spirit. Even a dog can play dead,
if not convincingly. They’re too full of life.
They leave it in tufts all over the goddamned
floor. When I found mine in the backyard
dead, her body was already stiff, full of darkness,
like our rusted metal shed, jowls
curled back into an unbecoming
snarl. It was like a sick doll
someone had left there
to taunt me. I told the vet to burn it down
into a small lump of ash. Back home,
I gathered all her shed fur & held it in a pile
in my lap. I know I don’t have to tell you how
it wasn’t the same, how my whole body rang
hollow as a bell with no tongue.
Brandon Thurman is the author of the chapbook Strange Flesh (Quarterly West, 2018). A 2021 Gregory Djanikian Scholar, his poetry can be found in The Adroit Journal, Beloit Poetry Journal, Nashville Review, Sixth Finch, and others. He lives in the Arkansas Ozarks with his husband and son. You can find him online at brandonthurman.com or on Twitter @bthurman87.