[from Alice Friman's The Book of the Rotten Daughter]
After Shooting the Barbados Ram
Because his neighbor’s boy wanted the horns
he whacked off the top of the head
leaving the brain in the grass—
two tablespoons of squiggle
and the brain pan
lined in ivory, empty except for the flies.
I watch because I must,
not because my grinning brother-in-law
waving his bloody knife
shoves the scene in my face—the ram
strung up by the hind legs
then slit down the middle, the insides
tumbling out into a tub. The one
undescended testicle, knuckle big
and hard as love,
flushed from its hiding place at last.
The body, the hide, adding up to nothing
but a magician’s coat emptied of its tricks.
Any two-bit fly buzzy in emerald
is more than this.
But it’s the brain I come back to,
separated from the white fibrous fingers
that cradled it, suspended it
easy in a jelly. The Dura Mater.
The enduring mother, holding—
idiot or saint—whatever she’s got.
Mama the dependable, tough as bungee straps
or a stevedore’s net, hanging on
to her freight until the final dock.
I kneel in the grass,
run my fingers over the brain’s empty casing,
think of my father, gone not even a month.
A meningioma, they said. A thickening
of the outer lining. The Dura Mater.
The tough mother who never quits—
who quit. Took up weaving in her boredom,
knitting her own cells into a pile of pillows
then turned, the way milk turns,
the way any mother left alone in the dark
might turn, a pillow in her hands.
They said it was slow growing, decades maybe,
but now, having reached the pons, the bulb
at the base of the brain—.
Look, they said, how the brain struggles
in a narrowed, pinched-in space, rummages
for what it can no longer remember:
the old triggers fired off easy as pop-guns
for ninety years—pump, pump, breathe.
I kneel over the ram’s motherless brain
the way I bent over him, holding the hand
that for sixty-two years refused mine,
singing the song he never sang for me.
The crusted mouth. The lolling tongue.
The eyes unable to close
because the brain had forgotten how.
The breath still so sweet.