Reading time: Approximately 4 minutes
I was drawn to the pairing of violence with the tenderly domestic in Gutowski's poem. There is something surreal and spooky about the vivid imagery of this poem and the way it reveals the destruction that hovers beneath the surface of our idyllic family scenes. Yes, even the beloved dog wants to destroy. Gutowski looks unflinchingly at the animal part of ourselves--our potential for harm--that we often refuse to acknowledge.
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We Eviscerate What We Love
Sarah Kain Gutowski
A rabbit lies belly open on the kitchen floor,
its glassy eyes refracting lamp light,
viscera spilling onto tile. I read
its warm pink innards like tea leaves
before trying to lift the open envelope
of its body in my hands and out the door.
Daybreak repeats the nightmare’s refrain
until I write it down, Why do we kill what we love?
and still my hands feel tinged with slaughter.
My youngest daughter loves the hare
who lives in our yard and looks for it
daily. The white spots on its back legs
appear brighter in sunshine; if I look
right at the sun and then down
the spots turn black.
They obliterate everything else.
Once my husband mowed over
a nest of kits, and one jumped
between the blades. His regret
was a dark spot obliterating
his afternoon. Within minutes
my vision returns. Within hours
regret fades. At least, you can see
beyond it. Once another kit, probably
a half-sibling, fell into a window well
and couldn’t jump free from the vines
curled there like so many loosed
intestines. In my hands its needle-fine
bones trembled. I carried it inside
to show the kids, and the family dog
looked at me and the rabbit with love,
with devotion, as if he understood
just born, helpless. But when I let him
sniff the new, untested fur he opened
his mouth slowly and gently, as if
though he wasn’t hungry, he would eat.
reprinted with the permission of the poet
Sarah Kain Gutowski has this to say about her work:
Not surprisingly, my dreams became more vivid and more gruesome with the growing pandemic last spring. What did surprise me was how everything in my waking life also turned more grotesque—or perhaps I was surprised (tho why, at forty-four?) by how grotesque waking life can be. Although I wrote this last spring—homebound and rescuing numerous small wild creatures from the jaws of our hound dog—the rest of the year demonstrated quite vividly our vast human capacity to damage one another, even—or maybe especially—those we claim to love.
Sarah Kain Gutowski is the author of Fabulous Beast: Poems (Texas Review Press), winner of the 14th annual National Indies Excellence Award for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in various print and online journals, including The Gettysburg Review, So To Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art, The Threepenny Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and The Southern Review.