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Scale-Model Sketch

ISSUE:  Winter 1996
For his birthday, they bought their ten-year-old
a pet boa constrictor.”Feeding time” became a matter
of knowingly kitschy ritual, with Marco Polo costumes
and a gold gong (was a trash can lid). And then,
from a level about a thousand miles above this
sillihood, the snake would flow its glissando of ribs
around a corner, survey its domain and—somehow
without an indication of speed or even movement—
gulp the living mouse down whole. That’s the way
the topless dancer devoured my bachelor friend J.W.
(however—to be fair—he’d placed himself there
very willingly). The similar, seemingly
boneless, sway of the body. The laden line
of contact, eye to eye. The trance. The ceded power.
Something earlier than language, something
chromosomal. And then he was gone, entirely
and instantly, although, from then on,
it played itself out in a slo-mo series
of ten-dollar tips, then fives, and ones, until
she wore a holster of money on either hip,
and by the furry malt-light of last call, they
were playfully bonded for quarters: I saw her
finally sit in his lap with a penny centered
ecstatically on her outstretched tongue—and looking
like the full moon I saw
float in the throat of water in a clay jar,
on my back stair once, in a Mexican village
so small that I always thought a rain
of more than an hour would wash it into the jungle
totally, one telephone, a butchering knife, and five flutes
riding a handful of silt. And why
I was there?—the skin I’d been born into
wasn’t enough, I guess; its far-outfurling mesh
of connections wasn’t enough. I wanted more
inside me, more digestion stones, the way the owl has,
and more for them to go to pulverizing
work on. I remember that I walked out
to the back stair, past the jar, to the yard, and
listened for the first time to a night of the world
unmasked of anything urban, even anything vaguely
neolithic. Only the zipper-like, rivery rush of a few
Goliath centipedes in under-underbrush.
A shriek—with wings. The liquid whickering of something
in the grip of something else; and then
the slobber of the something else. The whole dark
is alive with jewels of blood, as if
(in species-centric likening:) the blueprint,
or correlative, or prototype, or scale-model sketch,
of our own human hungers.


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