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Still Life

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I’m having trouble looking animals in the eye.

Their empty suits in outer space!

Monkeys injected with a virus to show off

Our eminent domain, the nervous system.

Teacup pigs we breed and obsessive mice  

Worrying themselves bald in a miniature opera.

For pleasures of the tongue we are

Winking cattle out of meadows

Slashing their throats and swiftly quartering them.

In riding habits with gold flame pins we ride horses

To hounds, chase a fennec fox until his red

Coat flares up against the extinction

Of light. Once in a circus we made

An elephant disappear and he did not mind.

Source: Poetry (April 2012)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

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Still Life

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  • Kathy Nilsson lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son. She earned a BA in English Literature from Mount Holyoke College and an MFA in poetry from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and The New York State Writer’s Institute. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Boston Review, Poetry Daily, ColumbiaVolt, and other literary journals. Her chapbook, The Abattoir, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2008. Her manuscript, Black Lemons, was a finalist in the Tupelo First Book Award, and the manuscript The Infant Scholar was selected for Honorable Mention in the Steven’s Poetry Manuscript Competition sponsored by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. She is a recipient of the Poetry Society of America’s Robert H. Winner Award.

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