The Order of the Forest
My first clumsy step in the dark alerted
broods, dens, clans, nests. Their snarls
resembled broken dinner plates, shards from vases. So close
to a smile, I’m always put at ease with gleaming.
Animals complain, I didn’t bring anything sharp. They hold me down
and sniff me for metal, I feel whiskers and breath
on my body. They examine my claws, blunt. Pull back my lips
with their paws, but don’t bother to steal
my teeth: those dull aspirin tablets. They fit me with a starter jaw:
mosaic teeth from a mason jar.
They must have found a crate of marbles. Eyes green
or yellow. I can’t discern: are some marbles black,
or are eye sockets empty? It is impossible
to identify variants of black against the navy backdrop of sky.
Their eyes must be their own light source. I brag: my human eyesight
allows me to read books. Nobody is impressed.
They snatch my glasses and immediately crack them
into usable shards. The forest blurs.
Trees wear animals like jewelry. A live creature is the most attractive ornament.
They perpetually stitch themselves a new hide. Even the smallest furs
can be patched together. A sturdier skeleton allows
them to brandish a wider jaw. Nobody has a taste
for wearing human,
so I’m safe.
Barbed, pink ribbon tongues wag
throughout the woods. Only mine is tooth-pricked.
An animal with enormous ears whispers
into mine that I have arrhythmia. My heart
is the most delicate ornament
I’ve ever worn.
Valerie Loveland (website) is the author of Reanimated, Somehow (Scrambler Books, 2009). Her poems have been featured in the Dzanc Books anthology Best of the Web 2008 and the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.