by Zoë Fay-Stindt

While the heron works on me, I sleep,
dreaming of a small fire struck in my womb,
a coiled army of ants caught in some dark recess
of my throat. She takes every bone out
to clean, boiling each, drying them out
on the bank. I worry she’ll mistake
a bent piece of driftwood for my clavicle,
subbing in a crab’s abandoned shell
where the parietal bone should fit.

Others gather while she works:
the red squirrels pick at felled pecans,
the street beagles pant uneasily.
My mother’s in the house
washing pots over and over,
something she can’t rub clean
sticking to their sides. A sparrow has just
flown into his reflection, now stumbling,
nauseously, around our rotting porch.

In this house as old as us, things are splintering.
Mom flicks tree frogs off the window screen
for each fissure: her brother’s ailing body,
flick, her father’s sickness resurfacing, flick,
each lost friend clicking offline, flick, flick, flick.
Underneath the window, the dog collects their bodies
from the grass, drops them from his soft lips
onto beds of magnolia sheddings, the wide, glossy leaves,
the wilted petals, their tough seeds. Each pale belly
still thumping, their greens starting to dull.

I wait for the shore to reappear,
for the tide to go out, for the heron
to withdraw her long beak. When she’s finished,
she’ll sew me up with willow thread, send me
to the water. I’ll pull all the clams up
by their knife-tops, try to boil them clean,
the water cloudy with river mud, stinking of swamp.

Zoë Fay-Stindt’s work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Indianapolis Review, The Ocotillo Review, Winter Tangerine, and elsewhere. Most recently, she was selected as a recipient for the national Gemini Ink poetry mentorship with Barbara Ras. When she’s not writing her own poetry, she works for an adult college program in Austin, where she facilitates and supports community writing workshops and helps others strengthen their voices.