Illustration: birdbath photo digitally manipulated into abstract shapes and shards glowing at night

The Jackalope

I resist the urge to believe in fate,
not a burrow safe to flee to, infested –
besides, my casting is clear as resin:
brittle. Not built for battle, not even
really meant for escape, all the mouthful
of me, I recognize an order draped
in form(ality). I’ve never really lived
in the desert, but I hear its song of singe
scatter on all tomorrow’s radios, soon, it promises,

but I do not believe in fate, deny the comfort
of the vanishingly cool dark. I knew I needed
to prepare. When I thought where best
to harden and spike, I did consider, I swear,
the awkward of my limbs, the softness alone
between my heart and bitter winds, admit
a trembling temptation towards claws or shell,
but if defiance was to spire, threaten the sky,

it would be born from brain, and so skull
was sourced as soil for grasping cartilage,
the better to warn, to follow a promise through
the eye socket so the next predator could learn
the price of density. Still. It hurt. Presses heavily
as any crown, gravity’s indictment against my lack
of faith. My witch’s turn, savior’s thorns, unnatural
survival scheme. I wasn’t designed for defense,
the coil of me shifting, quiver and bolt. Now,
I know I can’t outrun the desert, it will claim us all

as children and corpses, a warren of ashes
and sand. Then again, I don’t believe in fate, these
antlers a canticle of hope as much as wound. I make
no apology for the asymmetry of my composite
self. Make known only simple fact that when the fangs
and talons and spines and venom come for me,
mistaking me for simple satisfaction, they will meet
surprise in all my hard-heading, my sharp and shred.

R. Thursday (they/them) is an educator, writer, and all around nerd. When not subverting middle school Humanities curriculums to encourage empathetic, critical thinking students, they are probably playing video games, cooking the spiciest version of any given dish, reading, or writing about monsters. Their work has been published by The Poet’s Haven, The First Line, Eye to the Telescope, Sheepshead Review, Vulture Bones, Drunk Monkeys, among many others, and they placed second in the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Rhysling Awards. They live in South King County, Washington.

Illustration by C.B. Auder.

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