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Poetry

A Gauntlet

Mary Biddinger

They thought the triple beam
would trick me, the cow bell lure me
into a field woven with artificial corn.

But no thank you, calm waters.
I’ve had more than my share
of the eels underneath, even if edible

in some other country. The country
we made of our bodies flipped
the census into hyperion mode.

Nobody knew the combination.
We wouldn’t tell. In our next life
we would decline a next life

the same way we refused the spoon
with a wasp hidden underneath.
Your mouth was a force of creation.

It always knew the whereabouts
of its double. They made us watch
a short film about the genesis

of utilitarianism. The storms
were real storms, and the plagues
quite believable. Before the roof

roiled with magnetized staples,
you stripped off my chainmail bra.
I couldn’t call this unpredictable

but I was nonetheless thankful,
vowed to dismantle any twine
codpiece they might try to install.

When they tied us to a tree
we linked arms until it dissolved
into a straw of sap. Even though

you were a man, you learned how
to weave me a pair of elbow-length
gloves. The detailing exquisite.

You asked how many days
until we could, as they say, throw
down. But we were born fighting.

Not each other, just the chill
at the bottom of the filmy lagoon.
The forces that weren’t really

forces, just hulking stalactites
clustered at the cave door,
waiting for the drop of your fist.

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