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Of All the Metaphors for Being a Daughter

I’m drawn to the strangler fig’s

cosmic swirl of execution, aerial

trapeze artist mining down through

the body. And who am I to pretend

I have any stake in that death:

dissolving nutrients, nonconsensual

sacrifice, melted trunk a banquet

while the whole canopy looks on,

quiet in growth. The silent dissolution,

and after, nothing but soil made richer

for the disappearance. Reader,

which one daughter, which one

mother? Repeat after the YouTube

subtitles: hemi-parasitic, which is to say

split / reliance, which is to say keystone

species, more abundance than murder,

at the end of the day. All I know

is that forest must be rammed

with oxygen and rot. And look,

a few burgeoning fruit that will soon

house another death, only this one

volunteered: a mother digs herself

into that sweet, wet heart, all thrash

and surrender, wings stripped

from the muscular body. And so

two lives—no, a whole chattering

universe, stuffed with sugar.

These days, everyone’s dying

for a little more life. Yes, my kingdom—

though I could see her coming for miles,

long before I knew my body

had an endpoint, long before

I knew that finish line was a thin

tuft of seed, glossy, slick with bird shit,

anchoring herself into me,

where soon she’d wrap her legs,

fingers, every inch around

this one long, lichened self.


On Having a Daughter

Instead of any child, I’ll carry thistle

bulbs, purple and rubbing against—

or the seed of a banyan, quiet, sturdy,

waiting. My therapist draws an angel

card for childbearing, and I laugh.

My god, consider the self-effacing lessons

I might pass on, blurring the outlines

of the body. How much would I disappear

into that small creature? I am desperate

just to be one whole self: the long uphill

summoning, pulling burrs from hair

and teeth. Everyone around me

seems to be stretching their skin

into slingshots to hurdle themselves

into the future, extend their bodies

beyond one lifetime, into that dangerous

dark orb of collision. Don’t take me there.

This planet, our one awfully managed

self, this mote of dust, stuttering

across the stratosphere

like a drunk beetle. For now,

I’ll watch the gummy mess of me

fall into the toilet bowl each month, happy

dissolution. Head bracketed by knees,

when I peer in, I spy the pale tip

of a finger—no, one translucent root

burrowing her fine long muscle.


ZOË FAY-STINDT (she/Z/they) is a queer, bicontinental poet with roots in both the French and American South. Their poetry has appeared in museum galleries, on the radio, on the streets of small towns, in community farm newsletters, and other strange and wonderful places. Z’s work has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and has been featured or is forthcoming in RHINO Poetry, Muzzle, VIDA Review, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. She lives in Ames, Iowa, where she is an MFA candidate at Iowa State University and co-managing editor for the environmental writing journal, Flyway.


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