“Aposematic” by Elizabeth J. Colen

Elizabeth J. Colen


In rat colonies, the women don’t die. They get stuck on glue traps and dropped out of windows of fifth-floor tenements while foraging for food. Sometimes they don’t fade right away. Their little legs break from the fall and they land, belly down on the sticky, their tails flapping around. I’ve seen it. I’ve heard the babies crying through the walls.

The tarantula hawk wasp dislikes gestation. Blueblack body and rust-colored wings. Whore that she is, swollen belly full of stones. Whore that she is, swollen stinger. Indolent and drunk, rotted fruit on her chest, she fucks her babies into the belly of a lady spider she’s convinced to come home. When they wake she’s devoured whole as the children dig out, organs fading last in a gasp of desire.

My mother used to bring men home. They’d fuck and fall asleep on the couch. My brother’s hollering never woke them up. I wore little to get the milk in the morning. I wore less when they held me down.

I am going to keep believing in the devil, until the earth is proven otherwise uninhabitable. The great unimaginable caverns below us are really doorways into our souls. So what’s this about the eyes as the windows, cracked, shut, bleeding, smeared with weather and worn. Great untapped mercies live within us.

from Rattle #30, Winter 2008


Elizabeth J. Colen: “At six, riding in the back of my mother’s Mustang (named ‘Tweedletang’ for the sound of the engine), I first learned what metaphor was. Bob Seger’s ‘Against the Wind’ came on the radio and, feeling the hot air through the open window, I realized this was probably not what he meant. Something in the scratchy voice told me it was about love. My parents divorced that year; I knew pain when I heard it. From then on, language was never the same.” (website)

Rattle Logo