Jules Gibbs

Your Old Animal

Last night you lifted a weightless bird and ate its six blue plumes.
Your last elite act, it gave you a temporary fear
of phosphorescence and gravity, and a dry cough. Soon
you’ll have to dine on your own grandmother
as she recommended herself on a recent menu,
an appetizer, and was largely responsible for your care and feeding
when you were helpless. To conserve energy, the best way to locate
food is to wait for your prey to get hungry
and go looking for a meal. Glow worms are great at this.
The blind salamander and the giant, too. The polar bear falling
though ice has lost half her body mass and will die. Sun and salt
turn against her, and she’s consumed. Nobody prays anymore.
Nobody fishes. What we send out is sacrificial without the wish,
an opportunity in catastrophe, the cue we take
from famished children climbing out of bunkers, shaking
off debris, their New World noses snouting
Old World undertones, earthy truffles followed by morels
followed by Mother’s Apple Stew. Some say End of times; others say
Delicious. Here’s a memory to let go: a bell clangs from the back door
and the door squeaks on its hinges and slams seven times
as all the piglets come running. Dinnertime, a passé tradition
where the air drains itself of color until pork and corn
steep the atmosphere. Also, this: thanking the Trinity who fortified
every meal: meat (Father), potatoes (Holy Ghost), a murdered vegetable
(Son) swimming in clarified butter. It’s all gone the way of Nuevo Fusion
and Unitarianism. Your stomach turns when the moon rises, carcasses
creep into dreams and you’re asked to look into the bleeding, bleating
mouth of a half-slaughtered goat (part sustenance, part sacrifice);
you sustain, I sacrifice. The next night it’s dog or sloth
or hammerhead shark. Now the meat they feed you might say anything —
any animal comes to beg the worst answers, knowing
you have amassed its mass, thoughtlessly, passively, as if
the good times could have lasted and you are shamed, crying,
brimming with the confessions tiny women speak
to tiny priests, innards and delicate bones you’ve been nibbling since birth.
They feed on your consequence. Consequently, you get desperately hungry again
and sometimes you are too scared to answer to the food
and your hunger makes you lonely and you pick up the dead phone.
It’s terrible how no one ever reveals anything about their inner lives
and when they do, you can’t digest what they say
and you want your loneliness back. That much hasn’t changed.
That, and you haven’t turned to your own flesh to stay alive, not yet,
not more than a little nibble. Need, like hunger, is outwardly inclined,
expanding with the universe. It’s pointless to weep for your old animal,
call it back in whatever specious form it might take now,
bolus of tooth, fur, claw, feather, bone,
as if you might rekindle some old appetite
for intimacy, as if it you wouldn’t just tear each other to pieces.

Jules Gibbs
“Your Old Animal” first appeared in Gulf Coast, winter/spring 2011, Vol 23, issue 1.