August 20, 2008

Patricia Smith


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
the weeping horn,
iron hammered thin
stretches face bone to bend,
tongue flails,
signs scream
in this cave of stunned
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
around this iron
becomes this

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007