The Curse

My father slathers the vulva
with lubricant, the fat lips glossy
as a chestnut, while my brother holds the tail
from which clinkers of dried shit dangle,
her ginger flank also matted in shit. She stands
in the cattle crush, head clamped in the bail,
looking like a tourist admiring the view
through the open window of a train, as though
her head has nothing to do with her body
and her body is all about what she carries,
as my father grasps and grapples with the slithery, banana
-yellow hooves spreading the vulva, as only the vulva can
spread, flap to the world girdled in fibres spun to burn;
my brother holding the tail’s butt now, raising it up as my father
nooses the calf ’s legs with ropes, first one, then the other,
naked to the waist, glimmer of mushroom-white flesh
in the February light of the barn; my brother, like a
referee in a boxing match, shuffles close to the action
as though he has done this for all the twelve years of his life,
born to it, born to do, to be, the man in his voice the day he curses
me for losing his blue marble, I hope you’ve twins,
four of them, all in one go! My body already a future
to fear, blood that’s not stopped by a cold key; sorrow
and dread that I’ll be a woman. The vulva pulses its signal
for my father to pull; arched back, neck, head, arms
racked, feet rooted to the ground for traction, ropes
wound through bloodless fists, the vulva
like the mouth of a child spewing; remnants
of the water sac drool like dribble, as if she’s drunk,
as though she sings this new life into the world.
The vulva drawn now to its polished unwrinkled purity,
the last fierce fibres suctioning out what longs for life;
the calf ’s snout, eyes, ears framed in an umber aureole,
its rude, puce tongue, its tawny body a bag of bones
as it tumbles to the ground and steams; my father breathless,
hands on his hips, my brother his mirror
as they stand over all creation.

first published in Southword: New International Writing issue 42.

Reproduced with kind permission from Munster Literature Centre.

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