Kingdom Animalia

ashley crout

No, my story is not solely human. There are animals I am.
The insectile, reptilian, beastly, parasitic live wordlessly in me.

Yesterday the flesh that held me together molted away.
Its husk lies behind me like a past life.
Now I am the innervated cells underneath myself.

I once wished I were a double-lidded snake, my soft eyes shielded
because mortal hands forever clutch at something.

Please stay in place, they say.

Instead I have an excess of eyes like a housefly.
Each image is refracted as if shattered.
There are too many of everything.

I want the muscle and thrust of a wild feline.
When at last I leave this place, I want to go
fast and far. I’d tell you it’s too familiar here
but I have made a stranger of myself.

My life has gone so small I’m unicellular. I don’t know
when I began to diminish. I am often the only one
awake among people sleeping sweetly.

Envy can make a parasite of you. I need what they have—
a pause, a renewal, a hushed mercy.

Not to shed my living skin but to slough off consciousness.
This is not death wishing. This is all the beasts in me dreaming
themselves asleep, needing to breathe involuntarily.


Ashley Crout was born in Charleston, SC, and graduated from Bard College and the MFA program at Hunter College. She is the recipient of a poetry grant from The Astraea Foundation and has received awards from The Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation. Her work has been published in Sojourner, Ponder Review and Dodging the Rain, among others. She lives in Greenville, SC, with her hound, Stella.