My lover spent his summer in the south,
carving armadillos from their husks. It was, to hear him
say it, an experience—the term people save
for the places they hate. He spent June in the sunroom
with a pitcher of sweet tea and a picture of me.
By August, just the tea, watching hicks
suck cigarettes through long, aristocratic
sticks, papaya seeds stuck between their burnt
sienna teeth. Everything was burnt there. My lover
carved years off his life with the very same knife
the armadillos learned to fear. Where are they
now, I asked him as snowfall took care
of the candles I'd lit. The not-quite-rodents, the not-quite-reptiles,
not-quite-right gatecrashers of the ark?
How does their nudity suit them? Do they sigh
all cool, how we sighed last year, when we threw our anoraks
off and found we had that chalet to ourselves?
If we were ever blameless, it was then. I held your locks
in a Chinese bun as you went south indeed,
throwing, upon my balls, your tongue, how sea urchins
throw their stomachs upon the coral reefs they eat.
At which point my lover raised his knife
to my hairline, scalped me masterfully and poured,
into my open brain, a tea so cold and sweet.
From Otter (Coach House, 2015) by Ben Ladouceur.