BEFORE GOING OUT
after a painting by Fuco Ueda
About one in every 10,000
doe-eyed girls grow horns.
These rare creatures
enjoy drawing lines in the dirt
and leaping over them for play.
When thirsty, they pause
to taste wild berries—
delight in their shades of purple,
delight in their skins’ momentary resistance.
In other girls, the horns
hide just beneath the scalp.
Until this girl sheds the woolly
uniform and socks
down to her cool skin
nothing seems right.
She itches. Her black hairs
Antlers clatter on the ground.
A friend dangles her feet
over the bed, deliberating
which pairs make them
Pulse flickers at the possibility
of fingertips pressed
to her temples, to those bones,
pulled from mother’s wardrobe
just for play.
They do not know
the implications of their jewelry—
the conquest, the kill.
The shearing of self
to simply fit in.
The girls lie down with their heads
at the tombstone of her twin bed,
stroke the blunt tips of ivory.
Their ribs gasp shallow,
their feet forget cold.
you have grabbed this
creature by the horns,
wrestled her to the ground.
Past midnight, the madness of hens
drove me from bed to their house.
Moonlight caught their faces
blue-white through splintered slats.
I could see the scratched dirt of a struggle
feathers dragged through wet grass
and a white-tipped tail disappearing
into the trees.
With squawks pecking at my heels,
I tripped over the swollen ankles of oaks
and squeezed my way through
to a messy clearing where the rooster
was delivered, neck broken,
shivering against a rock.
Yellow eyes watched as I grabbed
the rooster’s legs and cursed my luck.
But the bird opened its beak,
and in a child’s voice, he sang.
Nissa Lee has poetry appearing or forthcoming in Mason’s Road, The Raleigh Review, Requited, and Wicked Alice. This year, she was named a finalist for The Normal School’s Normal Prize and received an honorable mention in Philadelphia Stories’ Sandy Crimmins Prize for Poetry. She is a graduate of the Rutgers-Camden MFA program and lives and teaches in southern New Jersey.