Our father wanted to kill us
before we were born. Starve us,
stave off hyenas with our youth—
our muscle as protein, lion’s bait.
We drained the flummoxed milk
out of our mother, who hissed
at predators. Her sonic cry could shred
raglan to scraps. Now we dance
to shed her from our spines.
The long years tilt—we bite spleen
& anodyne. For all the glory
of gore, we imagine ourselves
dead: asleep inside the culverts,
bald, piebald, very lonely. When
the sky’s meat smudges the valley
russet & that blood is so silent
we only listen to snow falling
on distant trains, the hunger stalks
close enough to scoop the pupils
from our eyes & we are danger.
We shovel out old kills from dirt.
Only in sleep do we return
home from hive-coma, disinter
detritus, gulp down the dead.
Sally Wen Mao is the author of a forthcoming book of poems, Mad Honey Symposium (Alice James Books, 2014), the winner of the 2012 Kinereth Gensler Award, and a finalist for the 2012 Tupelo First/Second Book Prize. Her work is anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2013 and is published or forthcoming in journals such as Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Passages North, Third Coast, and West Branch, among others.