Husbandry by Nancy Lee

Dogs in the gully are slow to rot.
Their corpses rigor, insects ripple fur,
my hands part a veil of flies.
Mongrels are no match for the gardener’s
light touch on his rifle. His devotion
to our hens slickens my heart, itches
in the back of my neck.

A boy and I scrabble behind the rusted
oil tank, its belly hollowed
like the dogs. We shade a magazine’s
waxy pages from the sun. His nose drips
a summer cold, his tongue pokes
a lozenge. He wheezes winter,
eucalyptus.

The woman in the picture sits
as I sometimes sit in my dad’s easy
chair, leg hitched over the cushioned
arm. Behind her, statues and trinkets
clutter a bookcase, a lamp drips
scarves. Her blouse gapes peachy
breasts that make my lips chew.

The boy points to her sheered
pelt, her thighs’ open sesame;
even in a photo it trembles
like an animal just trained to heel.
That’s what you’re gonna look like.

How will I master her languid
disinterest, slung angles and bored
eyes? Already it’s hard to swallow
without gurgling; and the prickly
warmth of the boy’s shoulder taunts
me to tumble on him as he licks
a finger to unstick the page.

To slow the blood in my throat,
blot the sweat between my legs,
I think of how the woman must
be old: antique desk, glasses folded
at her collar, knickknacks
on the shelf, the fussy whorl
of scarves. She is not a girl

in cut-offs and ratty flip-flops,
who too often imagines
the gardener’s shirt taut at the sight
of a feral bitch, steady hands
loading his rifle, snapping
the gun like a length of silk,
fixing to tie a wild dog in knots.

 

Copyright © Nancy Lee. Originally published in subTerrain (#80: Margins).

 

Nancy Lee is the author of Dead Girls, a collection of stories and The Age, a novel. Her poetry most recently appeared in The Puritan, Arc Poetry Magazine, The Fiddlehead and The Malahat Review. She lives in Steveston, BC with her husband, the author John Vigna.

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subTerrain is published 3 times a year from modest offices just off of Main Street in Vancouver, BC. We strive to produce a stimulating fusion of fiction, poetry, photography and graphic illustration from uprising Canadian, U.S. & International writers and artists.

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