The Animal Afterward

by Gabriella R. Tallmadge

When all the milk teeth have fallen
and our gums are fresh, wet,
raw—when the calcification has begun
to fuse one rib and a digit
to the next—when the sun bleaches
our skull matte—when sand
has rubbed the rest of us smooth,
we can shed our outer
wounds, the matted tufts too tough
to pass off as skin.
And then burrow in each other,
the only other—
the I, the you. How long ago
was the first season,
our first spring—my first nest
hairy with bees?
We stalked each other, our only
other, held down
with stiff spine, stuck need.
It was the prologue with limbs.
And I’ve kept every tooth,
veins dried inside them.
Pinned up the slough to the walls
inside me in rows
like roses. I’ve slept with clippings
of your whiskers braided
into the hem of my sheets. You’ve
left traces of your claws,
marked me in stripes you’d find
only on a fish. We will
always have each other like this.
Leviathan and Behemoth—
us in the beginning, us meeting
the end and starting again.
After our epoch they’ll find us
as skeletons under the ocean,
water will peel away to show
what we had been.
We’ll be raw bones, but again,
we’ll have breath.

Gabriella R. Tallmadge holds an MFA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and serves as web and social media manager for One Pause Poetry, a nonprofit arts organization, reading series, and audio archive. A finalist for the 2014 Greg Grummer Poetry Award, her work has also received a Tennessee Williams Scholarship in Poetry from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her work is published or forthcoming in Best New Poets 2014, Crazyhorse, Phoebe, Devil’s Lake, and others. Gabriella can be found in California and on Twitter @GRTallmadge.