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Check out my poem “Self Biography as Zoo Keeper,” published in the debut issue of Rhythm and Bones.

Self Biography As Zoo Keeper

by Ailey O’Toole

The men come to me with their hungry mouths,

their open throats. I remember the lessons: arms

extended away from your heart, elbows elongated

and wrists taut, palms face up, fingers unfurled by

violence, full of sustenance for the zoo animals.

They have only come for the taking;

there is no space for anything else.

I have only ever been taught to give

myself away, taught that my body

is a city waiting to be pillaged, taught

that I should be grateful when someone

arrived to do the job.

I don’t want this body to be an invitation.

I don’t want to flashlight myself for the hunting.

I know the bounds of my feralness and where it lies,

tongue wet with possibility.

I want to turn the zoo animals away. I want to withdraw

my hands from the cages, save some food for myself.

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