A wildness grew in us: clover flower just beginning to purple inside our lungs.
A tickle at the back of our throat, a minor irritation. Then we coughed – handfuls
of grass, dense, macerated, smelling of saliva and soil and fear. Two days later,
a thousand small umbrella mushrooms opened along the lining of our heart.
Coneflowers and swamp iris bloomed from our ears, moss lining our tongue. Snails
gathered in our long morning shadow and painted our limbs with sleek shining paths.
When we felt the blossom of a new heat in our belly we were not afraid. We curled
inward, breathed deeply. The first try was a failure of structure, heart sounding
outside the ribcage. We burned the fragile body in a fire at midnight; when the rain
arrived at dawn it was a deep, cleansing sigh. The second night no luck at all, hours
of heavy breath producing nothing. The third night was stillbirth. It went on like this
unendingly, untying a complicated knot of fur and muscle wound around bone.
If the universe felt a shift she did not show it. We passed months, years in this dream,
nightly attempting to change this ancient equation. What compels a body to move?
We built fire after fire, blessing each one with a fistful of wildflowers, a song, a desire
to create a thing we could call our own. What compels a body to stop?
A boy of seven has a swollen jaw. Warm to touch,
tender, he thinks a small spider has burrowed deep
into his gum and spun a dark web with a white egg
sac suspended from it. At night he dreams of the sac
exploding, millions of tiny bodies bursting into motion
and spilling out from between his lips. He wakes wiping
his mouth with the back of his hands, face wet
and cotton-mouthed. When the skin along his jaw
begins to redden he complains of soreness, wants
to eat only things that need not be chewed. A team
of doctors wheels him into a bright room with a large
machine, covers him with leaded blankets and begins
to photograph the inside of his mouth. He is afraid
to see the spider living there, afraid too this machine
might kill it. Imagine the complex fabric of terror
and sadness weaving itself around his heart: how
long do we live with that which frightens us? Perhaps
so long we begin to think we cannot live without it.
What happens next is no less fantastic: yes, a sac,
but full of teeth. The luxury of it all, so many teeth
erupting like a volcano of pearls from the deep
and mysterious caverns of this small boy’s body.
Rachel Bunting lives and writes in southern New Jersey, between the Delaware River and the Pine Barrens. Her poems have appeared in journals included Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Muzzle Magazine, and The Nervous Breakdown. In the summer you can find Rachel cleaning up after raccoons and skunks at a local wildlife refuge; in the winter you can find her practicing the ancient Danish art of hygge.