Vol. 24 (2013) His Creatures

Posted on Tue, Aug 16, 2016

His Creatures
     “(The meat) of animals that had been whipped to death was more highly
     valued for centuries, in the belief that pain and trauma enhanced taste.

       — B.R. Myers, in “The Moral Crusade Against Foodies” (The Atlantic)

Finally the police knocked at his apartment door
for something worse. But this was bad enough.
A squirrel had been hit by a car, its back snapped
and its legs crushed, yet it wasn’t dead: it
spasmed still, on the center line. And he’d slipped it
onto a cardboard sheet and carried it home, this
precious find, was watching it now in a rapture
as those twitches seemed to fill the table with extra,
desperate life, and down the table legs onto the floor,
and from there to the bare walls, like a gourmet electricity
that made this room the most ecstatically
quivering cell on the planet. Although there’s also
khoz ozeeri, the traditional way the Tuva
kill a sheep: first, an incision is made
in the sheep’s hide; then the slaughterer
reaches through, as lightly as possible and as knowingly
as if led inside by a guide, and severs the necessary artery
with his fingertips, the animal
woozily drifting away “so peacefully that one must check
its eyes to see if it’s dead.” The Tuvan term
means “slaughter” and “kindness.” Alright; and the wick
that flickers so tremulously in our bodies? And
the way the cancer couldn’t claim its daily inch of ground
without the scouts and the tanks and the camp followers
of pain, pain, pain? Why can’t the God
my mother believed in learn from the best
of his creatures? Why couldn’t I find him
with his arm stained in the slick of my mother’s last fluids,
having entered her ribcage just enough
so that his thumb and forefinger might, with a gentleness,
pinch out her flame?

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