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The Alligator Speaks
By Sally Rosen Kindred

I know there is mud between us. I know
what those fingers mean—small strips of pink meat
lifted in fear of my body.
Full summer, bloat of swamp, gray just

past dawn. You think of a stew,
moon-colored. Your sister squats on the sidewalk,
not knowing the secret of water, this hour.
And your parents are back in their bed,

even in dreams summoning hunger,
giving their teeth to the sheets
as they drift,
hoping they don’t outlive you.

Green is no monster. Gray is the cousin of light
once removed. Show me your fingers again—
this time spread out like a platter, this time
just over your mouth. Say ugly, say girl,

alligator. Say feast. Say what you want,
there’s a long dim time.
They’ll say you love me only because
you have your survival confused with mine—

no matter, I’ll bring my cold jaw down
and you’ll feel your own mouth going under.
There’s a gray moon down here.
Open for mud, as you’ll

someday meet hunger. Then you’ll remember
my kindred body, its shredded field of skin.
Let the mud overcome you. Close your eyes first
to see it. Child, don’t ever say danger:

know safety lies in the teeth.

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