It took the death of my father to startle me into humanity,
make me wonder what speechless terror coursed
like an astringent through the blood of the wildebeest
in the PBS nature documentary – though there was,
I think, no terror in my father’s passing, which was not
the rending conclusion of a desperate chase
but the consummation of the union between a man
and the ruin drawn into his body’s blueprint.
I had not wondered at those shades of blue,
that soft, ineluctable twilight. I was a creature
red in tooth and thought. I always rooted for the lioness.
I panted along with the gaunt, fleet cheetah, exulted
in the dire plunge of the peregrine falcon, reveled
in the menace of the great, white shark, its monstrosity,
a grandeur more compelling than the sweet,
painstaking little marvels troubled up by human hands.
And then the anglerfish. Stark nightmare
of nature. How the female baited her naïve neighbors
with her headlamp, swallowed them whole
with a thrilling suddenness – the authority of her jagged
under-bite. How the puny male spent his puny
independence in a starving search for her and how,
once he’d found her at last, he compulsively nibbled
at her flank until her flesh dissolved his face,
consumed him, leaving only his gonads protruding
for the purposes of insemination, at her later convenience.
I liked that there was no fucking lesson in that.
I liked how the anglerfish slouched through the deep
like a mobile abyss with a porch light.
I did not fear the nightfall that lurked in the ocean,
stalked the savannah, scourged the far reaches of the sky.
But then the void opened in my living room,
swallowed my father clean out of his body,
leaving not so much as a bruise upon it,
and I knew then that I carried that greedy mouth within me,
that we all do, that we must handle each other
with such terrible gentleness,
lest the tickling of our careless jostles trigger the hinge of that jaw to snap
Owen Lubozynski is a freelance writer and editor living in the Twin Cities. Copy is her bread and butter; poetry is her jam.