by Marvin Shackelford
Sometimes the body connects
uncertainly to parts animal
and unforgiving, or maybe
I have that backwards. The body
isn’t interested by poetry,
in motion or otherwise, or song,
maybe in dance but only for short
periods of time. Whenever
the loud and stamping warhorse
begins to think in rhyme or plot
an ending to its own untold story,
it carefully paces hoof and flank
before the small separation
spanning its sleep and truth. I fall
two places at once. The cavalry charges
through me, but I want to speak it.
The body frowns so long its stone wears thin.
It perches above the castle eaves
and watches for virgins, their sacrifices.
Their dresses brush a secret language
across the pavement, warn no matter
how heavy the breath they won’t catch flame.
The body knows they kid themselves.
Come darkness it crawls the electric
ramparts of a hallowed skyscraper,
jeering and sincere at once.
The priests wink and sharpen their hooks.
The body waits between time and place,
etched clear and clean but not quite spoken.
The body is given to fits
of cooperation, pacts with metal
and fuels plumbed from the earth’s thick veins,
the scabs crusting its face. The body
opens itself, turns light to smoke,
swallows the desires of others’ hands.
What wonder the slag in me melts so cleanly.
The terrible mouths at work, intent
on blood and every last part of speech,
starve in their wide but drying morass.
The body twines with teeth and eyes
until it’s unrecognizable.
What bursts gnarled and slickly winged
from this dust will not be me.
Marvin Shackelford is author of the collections Endless Building (poems, Urban Farmhouse Press) and Tall Tales from the Ladies’ Auxiliary (stories, forthcoming from Alternating Current). His work has, or soon will have, appeared in Kenyon Review, Southern Humanities Review, Recommended Reading, and elsewhere. He currently resides in Middle Tennessee, earning a living in agriculture.