You will never agree on what I am
but within my pelt I know myself.
And I know this:
I’m the wildness you keep close
to love, or use, or slaughter.
I’m the darkness in the center of your vision
always looking back at you.
They say I am neither one nor the other.
On shore they take my measure,
skinning me with their eyes.
Yet between white father and red mother,
between bow and stern,
between dawn and nightfall,
between our setting off and our destination--
who is so fortunate as me?
This is my true liberty:
the canoe, the paddle, the gun.
I thrust myself onward;
I sleep within the arms
of one they call sauvage.
Do you think I don’t perceive
the years to come will flay me?
Though I glide through open water
I’m also in the snare.
I have peeled the fowl from the air
and now I rest.
You barely notice me in the middle,
shadowed beneath the heart.
You don’t see how you wait,
your flesh wrapped tight around you,
to hear my voice report its harsh decree.
We are outsides turned in upon ourselves.
We are hidden scrolls--
the story of what happened,
the script carved by the knife.
We are the price that is paid
in a world we can’t imagine.
Water and sky together:
consider my surface a skin
dividing what is one.
Past islands, eddies, snags,
I slide past stealthily as time.
I am the highway that takes you
to the moment that always arrives.
Anne Myles is Professor Emerita at the University of Northern Iowa, where she specialized in early American literature. She recently received her MFA in poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in the North American Review, Split Rock Review, Whale Road Review, Lavender Review, and other journals. She lives in Waterloo, Iowa.
The Ekphrastic Review
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