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.