Atlas For A Return | Theodosia Henney
Theodosia Henney is the poetry editor at Cactus Heart Press and an MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota. When not squinting at typeface they enjoy baking, crafting, and expanding their necktie collection. More information exists at theodosia-henney.com.
Instructions for a Useful Death
The ram hangs by the back legs, rigged to a tall pine. His throat a jar spilled open, palate narrow as a spade & stained with grasses lovingly torn up. Nick open the hide, like clipping stitches. The work of skinning done with sides of hands, fingers, doughy skin & membrane pared from fat & muscles gone wood. With hands too remove organs from the cavity, open at the top like a barrel packed with dark fish, still warm from breath—lungs tacky as damp sponge, the liver’s dark iron, heart bloodless as quartz or a washed-out glass. Indigo spleen, kidneys banded like river stones, the testicles sliding from the scrotum round & white, diaphragm an oiled drum. Cut into rails of cartilage, break spine from pelvis like cracking sticks over your thigh, joints the pink of unhinged shells, synovial fluid clear & slick as spit. Lift clubbed haunches, hands buttered with blood & musk, scrape sinew clinging to rungs of leg meat like cellophane. By dusk little is left: hide to be tanned with a smudge of grey brain, white moon of rendered fat to be broken & carried, leg bones carved to whistles. Harvest one of the horns, boil it & grind down the roughness with your knife; a hollowness into which something useful can be placed. When you eat, the roof of your mouth aches like plated bone.