Elegy for Desire

Kathryn Smith

The longer I’m alive, the more convinced I am
my shell is bound with barnacles. I’ve shed
these things: outgrown foreclaws, furred hinge,
bit of jawbone still fitted with teeth. How easily
the lost parts crumble. Where is the joint or
wound from which my fragments fall? I’m a ripped
limb grasping at dry air, still flanked
with meat and spoiling. This is how my heart looks:
bagful of beach trash, little shards of desire.
You can’t scrape away the rot without destroying
what holds it, and I want both arms kept whole.
I want to be the fly rubbing its forelegs
in anticipation. I want to lick the sand from the bottom
of this paper bag, and say I’m fed.

Kathryn Smith is a queer poet and mixed-media artist. Her most recent poetry collection, Self-Portrait with Cephalopod (Milkweed Editions, 2021), won the Jake Adam York Prize and was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. She has received awards from Artist Trust, Spokane Arts, and the Allied Arts Foundation. Her poems and visual poetry have appeared in DIAGRAM, Copper Nickel, Ninth Letter, Fugue, Gettysburg Review, RHINO, Brink, Sixth Finch, and elsewhere. She lives in Spokane, WA.

Originally published in Moss: Volume Eight.

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