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.