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Bringing the Shovel Down by Ross Gay

"Nursery"

this little one's snout in the bones
this little one's snout
in the bones with its tongue
out this little one's
moan the spine
of the night this one's
ruddy cock made stiff by the screams
this one wet-faced this little one
with a face like a boy's this
one shriveled to the size of a rat
its eyes replaced with flies that
one's mother with her teats
dried up snapping
at the flies in her little one's eyes
this little one with its snout draws a circle
in the dirt around his dead
and dying this one with gristle
in his teeth pisses in the circle
where the dead lay dying
this little one snatches
food from the sick
and drops it at the fat
one's feet who
waddles when he walks
who opens his
mouth to excrete this
little one's teeth glint
in the rain this one's
eyes stay locked this
one's ears bend
to the pain this little one chews
on rocks this one drags
by their necks the old
and weak to
the holes he's dug
and fills the open graves
of their mouths
with mud this little one
snaps birds from the air
chewing their wings
and flight this one
gnaws its tongue this
one eats the lice
this little one sat curled
in a lump pretending
he was dead that little
one curled up
in a hole and couldn't
quiet her head
these little ones crawling
from their holes to
study the patterns of the bones
spilled and splayed and
broke as a language
as a king on fire in
his home the little ones crawling
from their holes to read
the story of the bones
to set the king on fire
in his home

Excerpted from Bringing the Shovel Down
by Ross Gay. Copyright © 2011 by Ross Gay. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

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