Claire Åkebrand

The Taxidermist’s Wife

Soft thuds
of Colombian butterflies
in their glass displays.
I dreamed they came to life again.

If Louis were here,
he’d groan: “Go back to sleep,”
and then blow out the candle.

But he’s far out at sea.

I dreamed shells woke on the window sill,
trembling with their inner oceans;

a scraping from inside
his crates and drawers until out
thronged hundreds of dead
cicadas. I dreamed

the ibis’s pink
call. A chameleon up the wall.
The crocodile’s tail sticking out
from underneath the bed,
stinking of swamp.

I have called out for you
but only your Alaskan owl replies,
snow in her voice.

An unseen snake drags
its rattle through the hallway.

Bring me back something, I said,
and he brought me
from Koro Island

He strokes my hair when I’m asleep.

I dreamed his eight-hundred eggs hatched.
Not one stillborn.

I have never written him while he was away.

I dreamed the bathtub full of eels.
Their private flashing in the dark.
The splash and slosh
of wanting to live
without knowing it.

I have waited for a letter seven months.
I hate to be alone with his dead things.

The waves in the sea
shells keep lapping,
break against my ears tonight.
Seagulls cry far away;
they haven’t seen him either.

Dear Louis, I dreamed your moths unpinned
themselves and flew away.

The clatter of palm trees in the cicadas’ song
flares up again.

Do you save my letters?

How does it feel to make indexes
you know will never be complete?

When he’s not home, I take long walks and pick flowers.
I name them. Keep them secret.

I dreamed the jaguars
licked your bitter embalming oils
off each other.
Their breath fogged the windows.
Their deep black purrs filled me
with want.

Someone has brushed my hair
and clipped my nails.
I am propped up, made
to look like I am dreaming.


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