Itzpapalotl by Jennifer Neely

Her flesh-naked jaw hangs open;
There is no muscle connecting
Mandible to maxilla
(Even the old people knew this about skeletons),
But she still has power.
It is a different strength altogether
That allows her
To grind bone between her teeth.

She howls;
A scream,
The agony of all mothers.

On one knee
In the offal of her enemies,
Bowed
Waiting for the blows.
This is a defensive position.

Through the wafting stench of rot
She retains a memory of honeysuckle,
A dreamscent from the time
When she was alive to flowers:
Foxglove, chicory,
Morning glories and their magic.

A bird comes to her.
It calls out;
It sounds like an infant crying.

She had lived, indeed,
Charged with creation.
Now, she is charged with protecting it.

A dandelion seed floats past her and settles,
Stuck now to some foul innard.
With this, she knows that she has been victorious.
Even here, things will grow.


Jennifer Neely received her MFA in fiction in 2001 from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She has found her professional calling in health care, but continues to write both fiction and poetry and doesn’t think she could stop if she tried.

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