Eating the Sting
from Eating the Sting
Caught in the snapped circle of light
on the cookshack oilcloth,
an upright deermouse holding yellow
in her fine fingers
like an ear of black-striped corn,
a wasp I'd slapped dead earlier.
She stares, belly resonating, round above
a scatter of brittle wing, bits, a carapace—
she has already eaten the stinger—
stares at me, still,
something thrumming in her eyes
beyond herself, a mouse stung
onto an edge as far from cartoons
as the venom she's chewed into food.
She cocks a fawn ear now,
caught in the circle of light
I've thought myself in at times,
but never sure, I ask her softly how
she does it, if I can learn this turning
of sting into such food as startles in her eyes,
learn to suck pain into every sense
and come up spitting seeds, force poison
to a tear held fierce between my lips
and whirl it into tongue which sings, but
here I've come too loud: She drops the husk,
fusses whiskers with her paws, kicks
a scrap of wing aside, and whispers
thanks for the corn,
steps backward off the table
(and so potent she is with wasp)
flips a circle through light and
lands running on her leaf-toed feet.
from The Color of Mesabi Bones
Dinnertime: Digestion dependent on the man's
forbearance, the woman ready to be accepted
or be flayed, children wan and seated,
the formal requirements of Table.
The boy sits nearest the man, in his reach.
Tonight, meatloaf and potatoes, creamed
corn, homemade bread, lettuce, dills,
the ketchup bottle, tall and narrow-necked.
Table is the place for all to learn eating
from the man, who never grasps how
they can be so blind to his correction.
!—The boy hammers the end of the bottle again, no
ketchup, !— hammers, no ketch—the man abruptly
snatches it away, shows him How, rapping
the bottle neck against the edge of his hand.
It doesn't work. Doesn't work. Doesn't! The man
lifts the stubborn open end to his eye, stares it
down while a quirky deathwish in the boy's arm
bypasses his brain and calmly reaches across plates and
openhanded almost nonchalantly pops the bottle bottom.
Table frozen, forks halfway to mouths—a sudden red
gluts the man's right eye. The boy will die. Knows it,
can't believe—but cannot hold his laugh, the woman
squeezes her mouth but explodes, brother, sister
all rocking, rocking, and finally the redeyed man himself
cannot but laugh and laugh, the boy unbelievably alive,
the man for once himself the fool, for once seeing red and laughing.