Excerpt from In this matter it is the settlers who are the experts by Hilary Plum

 

We were known by our calipers. What whites of eyes gleamed our way. There was a lack of cartilage. Stalwart we were even as the walls had ears and the bullets were greased in beef tallow. How little they knew of us and how our children spent their days in the baobabs. Our hearts were more ancient and their bullets pierced no fruit in the fall.

 

 

Peel back skin from each snakebite. Pry the panther from the canopy. Whistled and the children dove for the mountain, the ravens alighted. We called their hair raven and knew their old mothers. The snake passed by and we had our orders and what we called our machetes. There was a familiar size to the jungle. A soft thatch to the village and an absence of history. Amid the underbrush we were fascinated and our applications approved.

There was the matter of the lions and I filed away. From under the canopy birds emerge no more. Took me three days to descend while each minute grew nearer. The ravens warmed to my eyes. The rats stood before me but they had to go somewhere. From this angle it was hard to say gypsy moth or mosquito net. On my soles they’d marked me with the ash of the baobab. To my lips I raised hell.

 

 

To decree it was a sin. Bats sang out one weltanschauung and the aqueducts slackened. Main Street whiffed the scent of the senator. I deployed shoulder blades against the wall. In this economy housekeepers heap banknotes by the toothless children, candles debase themselves, the cows thinning. In the field by the red light of the cardinals there was no lasting measure. How our knuckles ached with the pace of our knowledge.

To call it night went over our heads. To honor the chill lips of the sahib we warmed up our old bones. Coming as a release to the lions. The moneylenders came round. I was making eyes. I was in no state. Even the pensions waited for dark. The spices went under. Something entered our collective trauma. Someone signed John Hancock. To close the door against any state is considered a crime.

 

 

At the corner store buying our last cigarettes the past abandoned us. The dolphins named every last bison. The cell phone was set to explode only on overuse of this emoticon. The streets returned to normal. The schoolchildren received new fake mustaches.

I’d made my living in artificial islands shaped like luxury rafts. After communion the coffee scalded us and this looked nothing like our blood. Cows commenced dying from within. In labor the derricks shimmered and the horizon was a wash. We never expected these birds to rise from the waves.

 

 

We called bullshit on mushrooms and what do you know, zucchini clouds. Poets reinvented the pastoral and switched the fence on behind them. I apprenticed the children to the cockroaches scaling the skyscrapers. Soon they would translate: an eye for an eye for an eye for

 

 

 

Hilary Plum is the author of the novel They Dragged Them Through the Streets (FC2, 2013). She is co-director of Clockroot Books, and with Zach Savich she edits Rescue Press’s Open Prose series. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Western Humanities Review, Pleiades, Copper Nickel, Modern Language Studies, and Berfrois.