needle nose plyers 

the alligator sold his head for scrap
& bought a burrow with the fool's gold. 
i find the tool like crossed legs 
down where the dirt's gone concrete.
everything needs to be removed eventually 
& you show me a bullet
lodged in your knee from a kid's war 
in the far haystacks. i am the artist 
of extraction & from all around 
animals & plants & humans arrive 
asking for assistance. 
i stand over rows of tilled earth
& help the farmer pluck out the teeth
he planted years ago. some have grown
the size of fingers. another day
i pull pins from an old woman's arm
while she tells me she wants to sew
a quilt big enough to cover her whole house: 
each patch a new color.
it is comforting to always be removing--
i can forget there are decisions
& focus on the unwinding. what do you
want to take back? i can help you.
once, i even removed a year, thrashing
& angry, from the jaws of a young girl.
she wept & thanked me & then she turned 
a year younger. for practice, 
i used to ressurect song birds
but they told me they didn't want 
to come alive again. i could never understand.
now, when they pass by they all silent glare.
they value complete cycles. they burry 
their dead in the clouds but still
sometimes one will plummet & i'll be
gripping my plyers, trying to resist
the tug i could give them--feathers alive again.
truly though, what creature doesn't need
a good lightswitch. i only did myself once.
there was the handprint you left
on my back. open wide. all five fingers.
i could feel it day & night.
it was hard to reach around 
but i snagged the corner. your hand turned
into a song bird & promptly died. 
sort of kind of free, i took the corpse
to the backyard to let the flock handle it.
is it wrong to regret your regret?
if i had left it there maybe
i could still feel that fragment of you--
your hold hand open & chirping 
against my bare skin. i meet the alligator 
in a dream to ask him
"do you miss your face?" but 
he has no mouth to answer with.
i move the plyers open close 
to hear what's left of his voice.
he says, "i miss everything."
i don't give him his skull back. i run 
from the hole in the earth
back into my bedroom. keep the plyers close.
more uprooting tomorrow. 

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