By Emma Bolden
Believe me when I tell you: I walked
to the barn voluntarily. Let no one say
I was led. Nor was I asked to remove
my shoes, place them sole-down
in the order they kept on my feet. No
one said stand & I stood on the stool,
above me the chain looped & loped
down & I saw it as beautiful. & it was
beautiful. I saw it & then I saw it
in my right hand. I did not hesitate.
It fit my neck & was perfect. It was
as if I had always been waiting.
Beside me hung my brother the sheep.
He was quiet. Flies sequined the hollow
half-bell of his body. They needed what
they needed & took what they took. His eyes
were the facts, open zeroes of surprise
or delight. I didn’t kick the stool away.
I wanted to know the butcher. I wanted
to know his hook. It startled & my throat
felt white, felt electric, felt neither heat
nor cold. I became busy with the facts
of being & becoming not & I at very last felt
real. There was no stomach speaking hunger.
No lungs or womb to say fill. & had I a throat
& a mouth, & had I still owned a tongue, I
would have thanked the hook for giving
me such forgiving, for making I not eye.
Emma Bolden is the author of two full-length collections of poetry — medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press, 2016) and Maleficae (GenPop Books, 2013) – and four chapbooks. A Barthelme Prize and Spoon River Poetry Review Editor’s Prize winner, her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Best Small Fictions, and Poetry Daily. She received a 2017 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and currently serves as a Senior Reviews Editor for Tupelo Quarterly.