No Insect

By Steve Westbrook

He spread poison in the yard:
snailbait and tanglefoot.
Sometimes he made me taste the pellets.
I liked to watch ants stick themselves
to gluey rings around the trunks of apple trees.
But this poem trails away from saying what it needs to say.
Near the tomato plants, he had arranged saucers
filled with beer: a family recipe for drowning slugs.
He dared me on a Saturday to eat one,
drooping dead across a china pattern,
and when I refused, he held the fat gray carcass
like a precious heirloom, candied gem,
and dropped it in his mouth.
“You just pretend that it’s a truffle,”
the dead slug flopped across his tongue,
“or something you like: taffy, licorice, a gummy worm.”
This is false allegory.
There was no slug. No garden and no dare.
This poem should be set inside the bathroom
or the darkened family-room,
behind windows with drawn shades.
This poem is about the blackest magic:
It knows how tongues can somersault coercive flips.
It knows how deception tastes.
He swallowed hard
and put his fingers in my hair:
“It’s like that with anything you put inside your mouth.”
I smelled the poison on his breath.
I felt the coldness of the tile floor on my bare knees
and heard the fly —there is no insect
in this scene, but the placement of a hiss —unzipping.
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About Steve Westbrook

Steve Westbrook is currently earning his Ph.D. in English at the State University of New York at Albany, where he teaches classes in rhetoric, poetics, and cultural studies.

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