August 20, 2008

Patricia Smith

SPECULUM ORIS

The Speculum Oris was a scissor-shaped instrument inserted into the mouth of a slave to force the jaws open. The crew of slave ships would force captive Africans to eat so that they couldn’t escape servitude by starving themselves to death.

the requisite tunnel
teeth in the way, tapped out
of the wailing
circle.
oris,
the weeping horn,
iron hammered thin
stretches face bone to bend,
tongue flails,
signs scream
in this cave of stunned
speech.
rusted screw pierced cheek
twist, tighten,
gums stretched bloodless.
speculum. fat flies,
not believing
their bounty, explore,
dizzied by whispers
of oat rice threads of fat.
woe is.
snap shut
all thoughts of swallow,
snaking head of possible
in the throat.
you will eat. you will
live. eat. knees scissor
and knock no
to warm water, shredded
meat. last tooth
leans, relents,
skin welds
around this
iron, becomes this
skin
around this iron
becomes this
skin

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007