Lynne Knight

The Severing

When the dog brought the pig’s head
from the farm across the street and dropped it
on the back walk, it was midsummer, warm
even deep at night, so by dawn the flies
were already stirring their hard bodies
toward it. By the time I came out to shake
crumbs from the tablecloth, the head moved
like a live thing with their gorging.

The dog lay unroused by all the buzzing,
himself gorged on brain and blood.
I didn’t scream. I draped the cloth
over the porch rail and went down
to squat beside the thing. I took a stick
from the lawn, poked a little, making
flies swirl up like smoke and settle back.
The dog watched through a barely open eye.

A stupid dog, who the week before had herded
the Hanno’s cows onto the farmhouse porch,
then sat and barked as they clattered back 
and forth, their blank eyes spinning wild.
I poked some more and saw a pig eye
missing. The cut-off veins and gristle
clotted over bones I didn’t know enough
anatomy to name. I waited there

as if for revelation. Inside the house,
the man I claimed to love had finished
with his coffee. I heard the water rinse
his cup, heard the click that lit another
cigarette. Then nothing but the flies,
moving like a heavy dream you know
you’ll keep the feel of when you wake.
I touched the small red branches

of a vein high on my thigh, first sign
my legs were aging. Sometimes his tongue
moved there, moved slowly there, in ragged
circles—like the flies I brushed at then in quick
revulsion, standing as I threw the stick,
dizzying just as he came down the steps.
What in hell, he said, and went to get a shovel.
That afternoon a downpour washed away the stain.

I could tell you I dreamed the severed head,
sign of what I knew I had to do. But it was real,
as real as all my lies there, where I lived
another dozen years, dreaming of another
life, one that would distance me from all
I longed for. As if a life were not continuous
with longing. As if I’d ever stop those years
from meaning all they do beyond their severing.