Animal Suite: Excerpts from an Abecedarian Self-Portrait
The armadillo is awkward and unattractive but knows how to curl in on itself, its skin armored and impenetrable (by words-slings-arrows-misfortune-social media), with joints miraculous and worth studying for architectural flexibility. Cute in its own way, if you spend enough time looking at it, especially in its youth. The mother becomes territorial and ill-tempered as the skin grows thicker.
The octopus god is whom you pray to if you know the power of protective self-amputation. The sour strength it gives your blood, your future. The shrines forget to mention the innovation of hiding through projectile aggression. Ink to cloud your predator's perceptions, occlude all certainties. Oh, to hide without being contorted or diminished. And yet, for the right cave, there is no shame in reshaping to fill its safety, like liquor poured, like perfume unreleased, a whole self become a willingly bound intoxicant. Worship what you will. When they leave whole limbs behind, we want to know — does it hurt, the severing or the living? They dance, you know, their bodies bright with emotion, bodies that can't keep silent. We misname that: camouflage.
III: Urethra Fish
Around the room we take turns answering the question asked. How easy it is to take for granted: the rhythm of intentionality, to hear and be heard. My spirit animal? He paused because it was our chosen culture to allow everyone time needed, so he took what he wanted. From our attention, drained the forbearance. My spirit animal is myself, but with two dicks. I discard my thoughtful truth and waited for him to finish before saying: I am a urethra fish. The patriarchy is whizzing along, and I am swimming upstream with everything I've got, and the second I hit phallic flesh, my barbs engage. I let that lie lay on the table, next to the pile of shit we've been asked to swallow. I think it is no one's truth, but maybe it is. Maybe it is exactly the thing we need to become. Hooked into flesh and going nowhere, until everything rots around our inextricable corpse. Let something fertile grow where we hit the ground.
Not many people know, but groundhogs are good climbers. Say you have a groundhog that is eating your zucchini, which is the only thing you are growing in your small backyard, and every time you see it, you growl "fat fucking groundhog!" But then one day you come home and it is standing on the roof of your garage, and looks at you serenely, because it has always known it had options and has never really cared what you thought even though your territories are shared if not disputed. It still eats your garden and you still mutter "fat fucking groundhog" every time you see it, but now with admiration and something approaching affection.
Shana Ross bought her first computer working the graveyard shift in a windchime factory, and now pays her bills as a consultant and leadership expert. Her work has appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, Chautauqua Journal, Ruminate, Bowery Gothic, Mom Egg Review, Writers Resist and more. She is the recipient of a 2019 Parent-Writer Fellowship to Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, and serves as an editor for Luna Station Quarterly.