Every poem in my mind starts as a poem about Jodeci
by Kate Sweeney
Except I still haven’t gotten an answer on why the hind
leg of a deer was hanging in the basement
and where the rest of its body went. But it was there
for weeks strung up in intricate Shibari, whip-
stitched & bulging. and maybe that’s where it all started,
a skinless deer thigh hanging in the basement, heat
coming off its flesh in waves of steam. We can speculate:
the adults put it there so that we wouldn’t notice
them— bruised marriages, hands puckered from pleasuring
themselves or each other. But we noticed.
And they knew it, and let the blood pool on the cement
anyway, just out front the basement fridge and
I swear I still think of it when I’m doing something terrifying
like walking alone in the canyon while the coyote
breed, or when I give birth or head or a speech and I can
still count the blood slapping the cement in a recon-
ciliation of this fear maybe, and as I watch a shoeless man
lean against the back door of a restaurant, pull down
his pants and shoot himself in the dick with drugs, right
as the sun is just getting there, to the point in the sky
that beads the sweat on the lower back and starts a person
considering shade. It seems we’ve moved past
the point of discretion, multiplied the pain. Just that morning
you described the only dog you’ve ever loved–Cleopatra
reincarnated. Coal-lined eyes, all that raw beauty, the vigor
of her thighs when she moved on a squirrel.
And this thigh, a shadow swinging in the bald light of a lamp-
less bulb. The light in an empty basement, a hollow
click of string used to turn it on or off, but never steady.
The countless times I turned my eyes toward it
as a distraction, as an answer to the hands
climbing my legs pulling at my panties,
the damp smell of basement
catching in my throat.
Kate Sweeney has poems most recently appearing or forthcoming from Birdcoat Quarterly, Jetfuel Review, Northwest Review, SWWIM & other places. Kate has a chapbook, The Oranges Will Still Grow Without US [Ethel 2022]. She is Marketing Director for The Adroit Journal & Word is Bond Reading Series and resides in Los Angeles.