Red in Tooth and Claw

They say guns are dangerous but
in all my years I haven’t found anything
more dangerous than teeth and
nails, powered by muscles,
every square inch of those pure
white teeth a driving stopper,
three hundred pounds
of force behind it.

Nails, too.

Really nothing more than
claws we’re too civilized to call their true names.
My nails are narrow and flat, spotted
with purple nail polish, chewed off
by fear and chemicals, but I know a girl
with fingernails so long and sharp she
really could scratch your eyes out,
she’ll scratch your eyes out, kid. She’s a maneater.

She paints them a deep, sparkling red,
the red I imagined my liver to be before
I knew the truth of it. There’s nothing magical
buried deep in the human body.
No soul, no divine inspiration, just
a lot of mess. Order, severe and certain,
on a molecular level, but you’d never know it
by just looking. That old myth is wrong;
you don’t lose weight from your soul
departing after you die. If your soul does
go anywhere it doesn’t have any
baggage with it. It takes up exactly
as much space as it wants to
and nothing more.

Imagine this: stored in your bones are the trace
imprints of every single thing you’ve ever
done, right and wrong. Every memory
you thought your brain had lost. Every night
spent drinking, every morning spent dozing
over a bowl of milk and dissociated grains.

And if you ever think someone has forgotten
you, you shouldn’t worry because you’re
in their bones, too.

People were meant to remember, not to forget
and that includes you. You are
the body, the soul, and the Holy
Spirit, and as much as you want to leave,
to catch an airplane to Korea or
the Congo and never look back,
you can’t leave. I learned this from a
college interviewer who said he had spent
twenty years in south Texas but finally
moved back to the desert.

So don’t worry,
he told my dad, they always come back.

I haven’t yet come back to the desert but
that doesn’t mean I ever left. At this point
I am half mold half dust, half East Coast
and half West. But I am still as sparkling
and red as the day I was born,
my fingernails still clean, my teeth –
all twenty-eight of them, or twenty-seven
if you don’t count the one that’s chipped –
still my own. Take care of your teeth, my
dentist said, you might need them to chew
out of a trap one day.

But I wasn’t meant to chew; I was meant to bite.