Kat-o-nine-tails

February 10, 2007

I am not yet good at shaping the clay;
cold lava slithers on the wheel
merging knots of startled serpents.
With no tongues to hiss, neither can they plead.

Our leader does not like me. She says
“that work’s a Katastrophe”, “a Kataclysm”
“I should crack the Kat-o-nine-tails”.
I am not my name. My nails
are sharp for her heart
but I do not spring.

After pottery class, I hide behind
in my silence. The art room flickers
in the shadow of fan blades. The walls
are covered in pictures: none are good,
some are nearlies, not quites, slips still
to be captured: a net snares one tusk
and tears. A cat glimpses the corner
of a dark cavern; I know that next
she will swallow the firefly.

I squint at the collage
of a steam train hurtling towards me. It is moving
under a mushroom cloud, or a hot air balloon.
I remember when they took me; my mother’s lips
were quivering. I cannot remember what changed
in me. Here is the cleaved torso

of Adonis. He is stuck too
but they have made him golden. Here
he is as ubiquitous as an artist’s mask,
or an amputated Venus in a cartoon museum.

My gaze lingers on the downs
of his chest. Through white bars
the moon is a silver smile in the sky
under star eyes. My fingers trace a path of light
across his breast. I feel them on his nipple;
mine stiffen. I spin around
but there is no one here.


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