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Pastoral Shame

Amid the shush of tablecloth, oyster fork, and crudités my mother swept
at my feet. She managed my brother’s aneurisms, bubbles let loose from his
nostrils. She dusted the shoulders of sister where melanoma bloomed in perpetuity. I am the reef, coral bleached, merlot in my lap. She had me in a bathtub, pulled me from the shallows herself. After the swim meets she poured hydrogen peroxide in my ears. I lay on a towel in the living room, a tabernacle carbonating, a treasure chest exhaling plastic pearls, a 14-carat canal.  I turn her into a whale maternal, always singing.


Amid the canyons my father handed me the matches. A field of caracaras,

black & red. You are my kin, he said, You are my kindling darling girl. We will burn
up the west consuming it like the black and red beetles that bloody the pines

against the worried sky. I stood in the tall tall grass. There were unyielding petroglyphs on nearby stone, red & black. I judged their number, struck flint. I make him a bird, the simple flight of kestrels, the camera shutter of wings.

Charge me with the parsing of matter. The cracking of eggs has its own

rhetoric. I am canoeing the wings of a hospital so you don’t have to. Brother, I pour your ritalin in the pond. I turn us into animals. I ask about the caged ones, the ones propped in death on stilts. I am your daughter but also a glacier working mastodons from its ice. You could call the animals our witnesses. Before you eat the animals, you must record them. You too are animal and you too are a witness. A dead child sulks out of my wrist, she coughs and coughs up wine and fur and hospital water.

Katherine LaRue lives in Portland, Oregon. She works at an ice cream parlor by day and works on a book called getting better machine by night.

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