Sasha West
How to Abandon Ship

Cows calve, horses foal, goats kid, but women do not child.

Another verb separates us from the noun of it, a distance between

cells that split in my body, my body, and her wet fur on my stomach.


I spent all morning as an animal, all afternoon covering

that knowledge up with dirt and sticks. I scratched

out a hole to bury my shame in. Someday my bones


would be gnawed at by something with fur. I tasted

bitter adrenaline down my throat. I laid with you

haunch to haunch and rolled back my reason. Once our species


could cooperate, we could drop bombs, invent plastic, extract

fossil fuels, burn and burn. Books showed species that could

decimate a herd. Our forward-facing eyes made us predator, but


it all seemed long ago: before we’d transcended to these

insulated rooms and screens. We studied bodies we’d made

extinct as a hobby. It seemed impossible we were still


roaming the countryside, still on the ships with such large

holds. The animals my daughter loves best she distorts with love:

bear’s fur matted under an arm, skunk’s head misshapen


with sleep. I watch her menagerie fray, try to rethread

the monkey’s arm to its body, brush out the horse’s tangle

of plastic mane. In her room, I can repair a species. When she


gets older someone will tell her how to groom the animal off

of herself. My body took calcium from my body to make her

milk, I nursed her with my bones. The verb nurse means to care


for in illness, to drink too long a single drink, to keep

a grudge too closely. Her cells and mine changed places,

I extracted my elements to feed her. What could be


wilder than the body of a mother? Believe in my bones the risk

I feel. Weather the new war our culture tells us not to speak

of. But my body knows to go outside in an earthquake, to huddle


down when the wind blows. To bite. To keen. To howl.

Found In Volume 48, No. 04
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Sasha West
About the Author

Sasha West’s first book, Failure and I Bury the Body (Harper Perennial), was a winner of the National Poetry Series and the Texas Institute of Letters First Book of Poetry Award. She is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.