Poetry Contest Winner

Susannah Nevison

 Preparing the Animal

I’ve been watching your hands
for weeks, watching the rain gather
its woolen shawl around the house,
while you sharpen tools, lay them out
and show me–gut hook, drop point, skinner, priest
what they can do, test each honed blade,
run the edge above your arm, close to skin,
just close enough that tiny hairs bend or fall.
When I was a girl, a boy showed me a knife
whose steel I couldn’t believe, though he insisted
it was real, dared me to touch it.
I pressed my thumb to check its sharpness, certain
it was fake. I bled. The cut and sting
fine as the stream of water

he then held my hand in, so cold
it made me ache. What are we but sinew
and synapse, a system’s grim accumulation–
but softer? Soon, you will slit
the belly, you will enter with cupped hands
to loose the windpipe and split
breastbone, the structure falling
around the heart’s muscled knot.  I know
you will work quickly, not to staunch the wound
but to bleed the body, to keep the meat, the hide,
will lay the body out, bless the knives—you, who cup my face
gently, who drag your fingers
through my hair, until I bend
or fall beside you.

Susannah Nevison’s poems and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming from JERRY Magazine, Western Humanities Review, Southern Indiana Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a 2013 Academy of American Poets Larry Levis Prize, and was a finalist for the 2013 Cider Press Review Book Award. Her first book, Teratology, won the 2014 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize, and is forthcoming from Persea Books in 2015. She is a doctoral candidate at the University of Utah and lives in Salt Lake City.