by Lucia Zimmitti

They gnaw canvas, rope, cardboard,
roll—like measured words—
kernels of nearly-food
in change purse mouths. They eat
the sick you heave, scour
the halo of sour wood
at your head. Blind teeth—
yours? theirs? ours?—seethe
and warp and snatch
each bile-wet splinter.

Curl smaller—smaller
—as the arrogance of want
abrades your skin, whisker-
tremble tracing the sick
back to its maker. You
sense them weighing options:
Await death, or
commence feeding? They

leave behind hard turds
that at least prove
they were there. But now the hasp
gouging your flank
consummates flesh. First, a whisper-
weep of pink. Next, a rush
of red like unburied life. Finally—
a ferruginous crust, proud
of how it stays.

But they return—
as they must—and lick
the metal clean, divesting you
of your own ichorous leavings.


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