Sara Slaughter

Four Poems


Only the female mos­qui­to can bite.
Her wings beat at a high­er frequency.
While draw­ing blood, she injects her victim
with sali­va and anti­coagulant. Our bod­ies wait
to respond with irri­ta­tion, nev­er grow­ing any wiser.
The itch. How are our nerves tricked? When born,
small mos­qui­toes and their moth­ers stay for ten days
togeth­er where the nest was laid. In stand­ing water,
they look like tad­poles, just called a dif­fer­ent name.
Wigglers. The first woman to swim the English Channel
trav­eled a great dis­tance from her home in New Jersey
to reach the British shore with­out remem­ber­ing her passport,
Queen of the Waves. Walking the lev­ee with my dog at dusk, I look
for cats or bones or dogshit. The dog, she used to clamp her jaw
on any­thing. Paper, above all. The riv­er now drags up this trash.
As a child, I took com­fort in know­ing what I would find,
in know­ing the woods that sur­round­ed me, how fast the heart
of a hog goes when pinned under your knee, knife to the throat.
Their kind, they know how you are ten­der, buck­ing under rib
if giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty. There could be some­thing in knowing
those kids who died on the Spring River last year share this scar.


1. Atop a water tow­er, a man has found a for­mer lad­der down. Now miss­ing the high­est two bars. Could still car­ry him into the tank below, but the rust has been cleaned. So, he sits. On the new top rung, he can­not see the city. No ocean in the dis­tance, and what’s beneath him is dry. Slouching, hands on thighs. His uni­form, a jump­suit. Legs rolled up and under. House shoes, a fedo­ra. There are no pigeons. There is no ocean. The city should not see him here. There is a place to rest here. We can­not see his eyes.

2. Three women on a couch. The first, the size of togeth­er the oth­er two. Saddest in all. No watch. The only one whose hands are easy to find. No ring. Second, soft, direct. Holding oth­ers’ shoul­ders. Busy, that dress. In the pat­tern, a set of knuck­les seem hid­den where her legs bend. But no. Four hands. Three fig­ures. Three, where arms? What eyes? There, bible. Closed. Lapped. It rests. What’s near, else?

3. Mannequin, naked. Whither will this body be, but not. She, mold­ed, cut plas­tic, knobbed elbows. Such nip­ples light. Not store­front, not bal­cony, but arch­way. Windowed, reced­ed. Not glass. Just a break in cin­der blocks. All joints cov­ered, sequin col­lar, sequin belt. She, such nip­ples. Flood light above for after dark, but now, two shad­ows below, one hat­ted, look on or away, and she, not shad­owed (nor eyed) can­not look, but boast, akim­bo, proud posed and alone behind wrought iron rail­ing. Incomplete yet, or miss­ing half of its ornaments.

4. Mountains or hills. And ocean, or lake. Driftwood. Shoreline. Maybe a bather. Two. Hat­brim­shaded faces, skin­ny ties. No sun, so white. The man on the right, held by the oth­er, on shoul­der. Guided there or set in place. No tide. But sand, striped from where water would run if it were ear­li­er or lat­er. Father, his vest. On his hip there, fist. Posed. Right arm, out framed. Elbow ghost­ed. Just wrist, hand. What son?


Everything about this dog is a lie. Wrong breed. His age says: wrong teeth. Kennel, no. Speak, then, dog. Only when crat­ed. He will whin­ny in the dark. He will squeal like anoth­er ani­mal. Stuck, there. This crea­ture could not sell him­self to the one woman who want­ed him. Could not she just have said yes? His hair, a hog’s. Something from a witch’s cup­board. His name must change. So, Archimedes. So, Hawkeye. So, Tacklebox, speak, there. Answer to some­thing oth­er than the dark.


Cucumber and mildew col­ored fly, the fish­ing kind, dyed­green, win­ter­green ­ hair trimmed off her col­lie’s ass. The lucky one. Pickup. Skinny answer. Brown caught trout. Not tooth­less, snake­eater. Backcast. Caught, most trout are not swung over the side of a boat but net­ted from the riv­er, waist­deep. Here, a dock instead. No net. Hand­landed. A thumb inside its low­er jaw. Here, no time to play a fish until he’s breath­less. And this ­ the lure belongs to the last true butch lady­lover I knew in all of New Hampshire, its barb smoothed down by the small set of pli­ers in her vest pock­et. We are not in any cur­rent chest­high. A dock, instead.


Sara Slaughter lives in New Orleans where she teach­es at Lusher Charter School. Her recent work has appeared in The Cortland Review, Every Day a Century and PANK. Her first chap­book, Upriver, is forth­com­ing from Press Street Press.