Failure to Obliterate

by Gabrielle Freeman

Beneath the storm stippled surface, the manta ray’s great gills flex,
the iron grate of a furnace venting.
Flames lick and chew.

Beneath the scarred skin at my throat, uneven excision
of my body’s failure to obliterate vestigial gills.
Three scars pull me from the sea into this rain.

The ray is a cabernet on the tongue after rare beef blood.
Fat suspended in juices like brief rings of light dripping off the chin
on to the breast.

The ray is the last breadth of a minor chord,
vibration of taut strings. Sound takes the shape of the body
like smoke in a glass.

The ray is the thrum of adrenalin, the enamel smooth shaft
of a sabertooth canine. Run a fingertip down its length.
Pierce ancient flesh. Rip it out in pulsing chunks.
Brace back feet, embrace the corded neck, latch on to the muscled shoulder.

Beneath the surface, the ray swims, its mouth open, full
with salt and the hum of skin. I fill my mouth
with deep red notes of tobacco and black pepper.
The salt crown of want, of subtle, of sweet.

The ray considers the sound of rain on the water’s surface.
It sounds like every other water. It does not
dilute. It slips over the ray’s gray skin, over the thick slits.
It breaks on the ray’s bloody gills.

I want the deep back. I want the deep fire to draw me into its open mouth,
to tongue my skin, to drip blood and fat. To expose me an instrument.
I want to be undone.

GABRIELLE FREEMAN’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in many journals including Beecher’s Magazine, Chagrin River Review, Gabby, Hobart, Melancholy Hyperbole, Minetta Review, Shenandoah, and Waxwing. She has been nominated twice for the Best of the Net, and she was a finalist in 2014. She earned her MFA in poetry through Converse College. Gabrielle lives with her family in North Carolina where she blogs about poetry at, and about writing and all things random at