Parable of the Unclean Land
And then every animal we’d ever slain clamored forth,
moaning like men, moaning like deer, the bullet
still in them, the bullet still rushing forward,
and there we were, steeped in blood. We’d been deadly,
we’d had to be—two women alone in the backwater
in my father’s old house and her father’s borrowed shoes.
We were hungry, we were always hungry,
so I tracked blood into the house, hid a .45 in the closet,
dressed to mourn. My father taught me how
to kill a thing and not flinch. First of four brothers
to skin veal, first to shoot a deer in the eye.
His wife was the woman at the fire who turned
his creatures on her spit. I was the girl. I watched
the way he held a gun. I stayed up to practice
on the plywood out back. And when I told my father
I loved a woman he hit me in the jaw,
stayed up all night shooting plywood while I watched
from my window, and the next morning I made him breakfast.
I smiled, told him yes sir I understand sir I am just learning
how to be a proper woman sir, followed the rats
into the smallest corners and felt dead
for months after. Unlike him, I am a good man;
every time I kill, I bury it. When he died I lived in his house,
killed deer the way he did, kissed the woman he hated,
kept goldfish. The house yawned open, and we had to try,
for the last time, to not die here. So we fled
to the train station. Fruit flies hissed at the ticket counter,
covered the welcome sign. One deer’s left eye was winched shut,
angry purple. Hissing, the goldfish appeared at my feet,
dirt still scattered on its flank, the shallows
of a grave. I was so sure that in the new city,
in the new house, I would be able to love her.
The creatures stood in a crescent, stamping their oily feet,
and we stood apart from one another with our eyes open.
Gaia Rajan's work has been published in the Kenyon Review, Split Lip Magazine, diode, Muzzle Magazine, Palette Poetry, and elsewhere. She is the cofounder of the WOC Speak Reading Series, the Junior Journal Editor for Half Mystic, and the Web Manager for Honey Literary. Her debut chapbook, Moth Funerals, was published in 2020 by Glass Poetry Press, and her second chapbook, Killing It, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press. You can find her online at gaiarajanwrites.com, or at @gaia_writes on Twitter.
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