Passing Obedience Around in a Moose Skull by Kelli Allen

The women said, you can have a daughter. The women insisted, there will be a big scene. The women begged, don’t mention the snakes. That’s the way it is with problems. Spreading the blanket over clover changes so little, but ground can be stubborn, often swallowing its own worms back down before the mallards arrive, and sometimes after they offer their eggs as collateral for a meal needed, shared. In the afternoons, the youngest boys let their penises wag against the wind, looking up, watching for large birds. Only mothers can convince such curiosities, such brazen baby men, about shame. The men said, temples of fingernails stay clean. The men boasted, these big hands break shoulders. The men hissed, there is enough in this sack to make two. That’s the way it is with marriage. Mating for life is a sentence without bars. Travel to the water glass and see what swims there. You should know by now—bedsides are just gutters for familiar pleasure. In the evenings, the smallest girls string clay beads into nets they will cast over their beds. The smooth roundness teaches the hair to grow slowly, the back to curl and uncurl throughout the short night. Only fathers know how to close their eyes while swimming in such a current. When the town’s sleepers join hands, palms cupping palms, the lot marks one more day in a year—one more chance to listen when the chorus repeats, you can’t walk home with an empty belly.

Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals/anthologies in the US and internationally. She is currently a visiting professor for Rutgers University/RUNIN, in Changchun, China. Allen’s new collection, Banjo’s Inside Coyote, arrived from C&R Press March, 2019.


Photo by Todd Quackenbush

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