The 2River View 28.1 (Fall 2023)

Theodora Ziolkowski

On the phone, Mom says the deer population continues

to increase up north. Last winter I found one                       
washed on the shore. The body was missing its legs.                       
It was all torso & head. When I saw the worn nubs
above its lids, I touched my forehead.
I haven’t seen one deer in Texas.
Somewhere along SH 30, he photographs me gazing                       
at sunflowers. My hairdresser tells me she loses interest
in a man after he reciprocates her interest.
I coo as she massages conditioner into my scalp
& the salon becomes a forest.
You know the part in the film when the hero climbs
into the body of a horse? The scene doesn’t show
the blow & the sawing, we only see the man
tucked into the belly; the horse’s nap isn’t even bloody.     
Last summer in Italy, I threw myself 
from painting to painting,
then studied Carvaggio’s Narcissus
gazing into the reflection of the stream.
In the mirror, I watch the hairdresser
reach for comb & scissors.
Sometimes I think our desire
comes from something else
entirely, like when a girl accepts the Virgin’s key                 
so of course, her life ends badly.
When he joined me in Italy,
we took a train to the south of the country.
Along the way, I dreamt of old boyfriends
& woke believing they’d dug
out their eyes & left
them beside me.
A cabbie drove us
round those winding roads in Amalfi,
& at some point we must have taken a selfie
because in that one of us in the backseat,
my eyes are squinting from the flash
while his are looking through me.

Our apartment still aromatic with the trout lily

I woke the morning after our anniversary
to learn he’d spent the night ill without me.

I couldn’t help but blame our wedding cake,
its sugar & buttercream,
which I’d thawed from the freezer
& divided down the middle.

The cake tasted nothing
like it had at our wedding, but he still cleaned
both plates & got food poisoning.

Listen, when I talk about that cake, I am talking about
how in the months that followed, crows replaced
the barn swallows. How one day while jogging
I watched a hawk tear open a rabbit.

Sometimes the old shame rises
& I am reminded of the years I went missing

in a stranger’s body.
One night, a storm shook entire branches
from the oak across the street.
When he asked how it was possible

the noise hadn’t woken me, I reminded him
what he himself had said. I sleep like the dead.

Theodora Ziolkowski is the author of On the Rocks and Mother Tongues. Her writing has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Short Fiction, and The Writer’s Chronicle, among others. Her debut poetry collection is forthcoming from Texas Review Press. (website)
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