And Where Does It Come From, This Animal-Soul? | Paulann Petersen


And Where Does It Come From, This Animal-Soul?

From inside the echoing rooms 
of my grandfather's fur shop. 
Bit by bit.  I was young,
The fur was sleek, soft. I didn't know.
Even the stiffest guard hairs gleamed.  
My animal-soul pieced itself together each time 
I touched a pelt. 

My grandfather wet down the skins
and with fine, needle-tipped nails stretched them  
on a pine board. Their musk rivered 
into my breath. On her black enameled machine, 
Nana sewed linings of satin to conceal
each soft-napped underside.

For too long, I didn't realize
what my fingers had gathered into me
mote by mote as I grew. The sorrow, those eyes 
caught in blinding light,
a leg only half bitten in half 
by a trap's metal jaw.
My animal-soul has countless names.
Blue fox, red fox, silver.
Ermine, beaver, fitch.
I was a child then. I did know.
A terrible beauty had found me.
Seal and cony and karakul.  My hands 
reach for them all.

                       —Paulann Petersen


Understory, Lost Horse Press, 2013


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