Joanna, Animals by Taylor Gorman


Your voice like a guitar solo. The way you sing buries me. The contortion of your mouth is what I think of when I think of love. Singing, you say, is like dying repeatedly in front of a crowd. Like burning out loud, your body golden, then burnt like sugar. Your voice engulfed in the movement. The things we cannot control, Joanna. Your tongue curling to the syntax of your lungs, forming words like ghosts to a world that believes in ghosts. The bent way you entangle your harp, your fingers pulling and letting the harp retort, always with the last word. There is no end to the argument. And me, speechless. The things I couldn’t do to you. I try to follow your hands, try to listen to the story you break into me about that city swallowed by the ocean in France. You said it was a dream you had, and that’s all it meant. You said there are parts of you that cannot be translated, that they had no song until you gave it. But I understood. I had the same dream. Last night, I dreamt you broke my hand into smaller hands, broke my throat into smaller throats that burst into song. But I still have them. I still have the hands.


The thing most people don’t know is that everyone is born with two animals inside them. One animal is a wolf, or something like it. The wolf digs at your body. It scratches Roman numerals on the inside of your ribcage. It’s like being in a museum of a language you don’t speak anymore. In the middle of the night, when you’re deciding between a glass of water or a pill to live inside for the night, the wolf will even sing. The wolf will even dislodge your bones, bury them in your stomach and unearth each, weeks later, as if doing you a favor. The other animal, which is usually a group of animals, is different from person to person. Some people have a cluster of mice racing through their body, as if they will find something at the end of it. Some have an anthill above their intestines that crests just below their heart. Some people have wasps, some people have a colony that makes honey. Get it? You thought you were born with a handful of spiders, entombing your insides like an old god. Well, you’re mistaken. You are something different. You don’t have a second animal at all. You were born with a river inside you, a body inside your body that keeps carrying you to places that you don’t want to be. I can hear the rush every time you leave your mouth agape, every time you fall asleep. The water sounds like the static on the phone when you call and say you feel like you’re drowning. I’m drowning, too. What I mean by all this is that, next time you’re in a dressing room or in front of a bathroom mirror and you notice how worn your eyes seem now, how much it feels like they’ve given up, try, instead, cutting your chest open. The water, however brackish, will pour out onto the tiles of floor. Notice the sound it makes, notice the silt that follows after, and notice the wolf that hobbles out with no idea what to do.

Photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan on Unsplash