Jessica Cuello

Donkeyskin

When the baby was born, it did not look like a human child, but like a young donkey. A curved path. Curved to our door. I watched him while he didn’t know. I’m like a field on which nothing grows. said his childless mother, wishing. She held his pulse and skull beneath the pond. Through the light, speckled black, he glimpsed her arms, stone white, a figure above the water turned away. But his father dragged him out. Fetal twice he won’t forget the steep plunge of unwanted. His front hoofs played the lute; father let him in our gate. I had a gift for watching blind, my gaze was down. Liquid eyes twice as big as ours took in the table and the ceiling. Every room tented us. He withdrew me to his secret, an earth peeled back, human skin beneath the fur. Every room we shut the door. I clasp him in his skin. His sun-lit ear is fabric thin, red with life. We forget our duties. To love him is easy, to love him takes my will. At our wedding, he offends the guests with happiness. My cheek roughens as we dance, dizzy with the man beneath. My face hides in the donkey neck where the fur is slightly damp. I smell childhood hung with branches, where I clothed my doll in leaves, ate tips of clover, knew what animals know. The hoof intertwines like fingers. Fingers on an animal. We whirl til all else is unnatural.

Jessica Cuello is a graduate of Barnard College and she teaches French in Central New York. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Rhino, Copper Nickel, The Dos Passos Review, Blood Lotus, Harpur Palate, and Literary Mama.