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Itch

The nag tail-whipped flies from her back,
boys jumped from boats into rushes
to avoid being bitten.  Even cranes left eggs

to hatch untended off marshy, wooded trails. So,
when our swatter’s waffle-holes jellied yellow and red,

it was impossible to know whose blood it was. 

The man lying on shore watched the boys
splash, disappear, while filling his mouth with flies,
then spiders, sparrows, like the old woman

who’d swallow anything living
to get rid of the tickle inside her. 

But this has nothing to do with gain

or the soul’s weight: it’s about heat—
The train carries a woman in a winter coat, 
carrying dirty bags full of dirty bags and empty bottles. 

This is silently about the flies pouring from a slit
along the seam of her coat as she stands,

whispering: this is my blood, this

is my cup, and the secret way
I inch a pen down the back of my throat
to scratch out the ink of their crawling.
Posted 05/08/12
First appeared in Cimarron Review, Winter 2012.
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