Protective Services

Sara Moore Wagner

Nights I lay like arms

across a torso, the way

my nerves look, smallness

of veins. Like tributaries,

the world spawns as the catfish

do in the lake. The raw center

where I drown and re-drown

my father, then the image

of this new child.

Remember Hecuba,

her 19 babies, how she was

also born from a river-

god. Some days I want

to drill my hand to the headboard.

To keep dreaming

I sent my own self away,

mouth full of cotton.

Instead, I hold a hot spoon

to my eye until I am half

blind as Cassandra, until

I forget my mother’s

bruised arms, the bends

of them empty as a syringe.

How if they let us, we both

could spread into the ground

system, fork like lightning in the earth.


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