In the Zoological Museum,
every animal bares its teeth—
the mink lifts from the drawn earth
at the beast it will consume,
its body erect
in death and reverie. The white
fox stalks winter rabbits
poised for the next passing,
while a seal is opened
to its fleshy cell. We look up
into the blue whale that hangs above us,
its history reduced to air and bone.
I am here with a man that I love
for a week, whose hand I finally grasp
one night in the city. His face,
the last time I see it, turns
with fixed yearning as I brush
a brown moth from his coat.
Now married and an ocean away,
I wonder who we are but the skins
of what we’ve lost? The petrified moment
between the fear and the kill.
The dead sheep, stuffed decades before,
forever wait the wolf
and his toothy promise
while the pecked-open shrew bares
its plastic innards,
a marble-eyed hawk hovers
above its impossible meal.
Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the author of two full-length poetry collections, The Fear of Being Found (Three Candles Press 2008) and The Naming of Strays (Gold Wake Press 2011). Erin teaches a bit of everything in the English Department at the University of Tennessee and serves as the managing editor of Sundress Publications and Stirring.