126.1: Tory Adkisson:: Anecdote of the Scorpion & Still Life with a Kitchen Table & Paella 126

I am a cold scorpion. I am an effusive cloud. I am a counter, a fish, a simmering pot, a bacterium under the skin of a chicken. I am a hand steadily (unsteadily?) becoming one with a chef's knife. I am an anecdote and a still life. I am a simile rolling off a tongue that becomes real, complete with a poisonous stinger. On first read, these two poems by Tory Adkisson take one through a succession of solitary states: "I've gotten so used to flavor of want— // curing myself would do more damage." The speaker, other than a brief mention of the long-deceased artist Vermeer, is the only human inhabiting these poems. But through the examination of the solitary existence, Adkisson creates worlds of tenderness. The chicken carcass beats with the world of bacteria feasting on its raw flesh. The paella ingredients will soon come together to create a life-sustaining (and affirming) meal. The stove will become dirtied and in need of somebody to clean it. And as we read, we join Adkisson and "accept similes on [our] tongue / for communion" and watch as like-ness becomes actual-ness, as the lonely world becomes repopulated by our own existence imbuing everything with life—even if it is just our own. Andrew Wessels

Anecdote of the Scorpion

The cold scurries out
from beneath my bed. Like lampreys
my toes curl. The cold carries
a pair of pincers, a tail

curved like a question mark
separated from the context
of a question. More marks

squirm on its brindled back
(the father carries the young, the mother
nowhere to be found.) Its body
an austere & inarticulate

light. The carpet blends
with its throat. I close my eyes
and dream I lose track of its fragile

presence & spend the rest of the night
worrying it will climb up
my blankets, brandishing its sac of poison

like an antidote for longing.
I’ve gotten so used to flavor of want—

curing myself would do more damage.
I’m fine floating like a cloud,
uncondensed & occasionally effusive.
The cold need not

encroach upon me here, help me
cohere. I reject knowing myself
too intimately. I accept similes on my tongue

for communion & watch the stinger
bob along from a distance,

curiously, like a heron.

Still Life with a Kitchen Table & Paella

The counter is still a counter. The life’s still

there: in the fish, the succotash,

the broth made from hacked-off hen

hackles & the dust lifted

from a grouse’s broken wing. Let the pot simmer

a while longer. Build

& build the flavor. I’ve been spending time

with Vermeer

while the radishes pickle in a salt brine

& the olives ooze

oil in their dish (pimentos: unattended

& unused.) The life

of an artist seems to be one of suffering.

Is poetry any different?

Even beneath the chicken’s pale skin, bacteria

stir. The breast beats

with life, throbbing like a tell-tale heart

except it has no tale

to tell, no narrative to convey in small doses

like the sesame seeds

coating a pair of chilled lips. The stove is still

a stove, & needs to be scrubbed

after dinner. My hand is still a chef’s knife.

I’m careful when I use it.