- In the Fist of the Blade Holder, and: Boston, 1992, and: South County, Matunuck, RI, and: 1996, and: To My Assailant, 15 Years Later, and: Awaiting the Elegy, and: The Dove
In the Fist of the Blade Holder
The cow's head on a damp wooden blocksevered, tongueless, with pieces of its cheek
shaved off little by little. And always,pulled in by the hand of their mother,
there is a child who pauses, reachinginto their own mouth to make sure
their tongue is still attached. The glass pane foggywith the freshness of flanks, wine colored
and splayed into a perfect row. Chickenfeet curled like wire hangers, nineteen hooves
attached to their joints. One kidney purplingin a stew of its own leaking and
there is always a woman who smiles at the butcher,his apron speaking his day in a deep, rouged
staining. He always returns to the back room,where a bone saw sings through marrow. His hands
wrist deep in a lamb and yanking at the intestinelike a long gray handkerchief. The silver
grinder humming flesh into a creamy pulp. He workshis knife like a dancer, slicing through a body— [End Page 85]
tossing into a bucket what no onewould want. Carrying a whole, hollowed hog
over his shoulder like a bride. A singlefly twitching on its snout
and even though bred for this, its mouth openedin a silent scream. And even thoughbred for this, its eyes wide in disbelief. [End Page 86]
It was a nickel to view and our school group let usclimb on the silver viewfinders lining the river, usingthe last of our lunch money to flip the binocular eyeopen to the other side of the city. Ellen saw it first,
grabbing my shoulder and pulling me over, the metalsight revealing the mouth of an alley where a womanwas bent over the hood of a car and a man behind her,
driving himself over and over. The boy beside mepretended his viewfinder was a machine gun, makingthe plosives of war—wet, loud—spit flying as I lookedat their mouths moving in a silent, far-off heaving.
Other girls gathered behind me, taking turnstugging at each other's plaid skirts; we swarmed togetherso tightly we looked like one animal, our uniforms blendinginto a twelve-ankled beast, hungry to see. Julie's slack gasp
exposed the gap where her new teeth were coming in—moreshe said, her hand out flat, and I dug into my pocketsfor my last coin to thumb into the machine.
The rest of the boys pretended to die or kill each otherin a swarm of swinging backpacks until a whistle blew—calling the mass of us back to the bus, and I was the last
one to see the man leave, fixing the collar of his shirt,returning to the street, leaving the woman thereto count a handful of bills. [End Page 87]
South County, Matunuck, RI
Each winter a new storm bent on our shoreline and damagebloomed wild. When the neighbors left, we stayed
watching the seawall recede stone by stone. The windowsof other houses grew closed, boarded, as ours glowed
through each night. Begging for it. A line corsetingour home thinner from where the water scaled like ivy
and entered through the windows. Our small peninsulaof land caught between the bay and the gray Atlantic—
there was no hope. Gulls nesting on the barren islandof our roof, cracking blue crabs on battered shingles.
The waves gnashing up our welcome mat, one dozen silversidedminnows gasping on our doorstep. My father
grinning like a madman lost at sea when he'd wade outto get the mail, the floating garbage barrels spinning
over and over like pigs on a spit. Everything grew largeraround us. The school lifted by two cranes, the church
tilting on seventeen stilts, one barn moved half an acreback. The foghorn giving up mid-January, the lighthouse
rolling its neck like a drunk. We livedwith the smell of the tide...