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.
NEW IDEAS ABOUT FOUR PHOTOGRAPHS
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.
CONNECTICUT RIVER REHEARSAL
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.