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3 poems by Kimberly Dawn Stuart

Love Language of Small Creatures

I can trace my father’s tenderness like swamp lines

to the rabbits. The first time he caught one

for me, he held it out like holy water, meant me to dip

fingers into gray fur and draw them back to myself,

changed. We spoke through these rituals of giving

and getting while I learned about patience, about oceans

lodged in bare hands and quiet men. They did not

squirm where he squeezed. They did not even try

to run. He was made of stillness that way,

of stagnant water and moss. He’d blend right

into the trees if we’d have let him. But we made him

a daddy instead, so he said I love you by offering these bits

of himself: wild rabbits and sugarcane stalks.

We were meant to bite into whatever fell from his palm.


There have been two: one in the eaves

under swaths of kudzu, the other tangled

in confederate jasmine behind the house.

Our dance goes like this: babies are born

without much fuss, mamas pile grub meat

into bare bellies until one day the wind

shifts and leaves settle and neighborhood

cats begin to stalk. I grab a glass of wine

and fistful of rock and park a lawn chair

downwind. It’s as much spectacle as it is desire—

this need to protect the young, to heave chunks

of concrete at gray cats who slink behind trashcans

like shadows. We’re told everything will change

when we have kids, but I can’t imagine having

to feel any more than this. Already, on fledgling

days, too many corners move on their own.

Exhuming a Butterfly Carcass

I did it with a rock in no

time, shucked her onto a bed

of pebbles and sand and life

line because I am stronger,

and she is dead, and finders,

keepers. She tried to escape

me twice, to beckon wind

to whisk her into

air, but I was quicker.

Lucky for me, the dead

are always blind. It’s funny

how careful I was with this late

summer bug who, just a few

weeks ago, if I’d have caught her

on my okra plant, pocking leaves

to fill her ravenous gut, I’d have slit

her in two with rusting shears, caught

her halves in my palm, let green blood

spill into my delta of creases. The same

lines that, dry, cover her now like one-

match-left-kind-of light. Too bad she’s

not a Phoenix. How different my hands

would look if she were not ugly first.


Kimberly Dawn Stuart's work has recently appeared in Rust + Moth, Louisiana Literature, 8 Poems, Barren Magazine, and Deep South Magazine, among others. She lives in New Orleans with her husband, the writer Marley Stuart, where they direct the small press River Glass Books.  


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