What Lies Beneath by Cynthia Manick

Today I am elbow deep
in some animals belly

pulling out the heart and stomach
for my mother’s table

brown rubber soles blood slicked
the swing of twin blades

cuts a whole village worth of pelts, 
coon, carved bones for ladies

jewelry and coats. These hands
can ground down rock and gold

call a man sweet dusty, mold
knots of spit and hair like clay

until a baby’s head is perfectly round.
These hands are good for killing—

I feel this knowing rising
like different names for fire.

Every bone has a ghost– 
the smallest, a stirrup in the ear

whispers walk carefully there
you come from a dark tribe.


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Contributor Notes

“What Lies Beneath” is part of a series that explores race and femininity. I met a businesswoman in Georgia who said she would’ve loved to hunt for her own food.  I also support a theory that all of our bones have a history; a space where ancestors have left their genetic blueprint. Those prints can appear at any moment, in sayings passed down from elders, to hand crafts of building and shaping, and to the realization that parts of society still do not accept that we can be many things – mother, lover, sister, and hunter.

Cynthia Manick is a Cave Canem Fellow. She holds a BA from Hollins University in English and Philosophy and a MFA in Creative Writing from the New School.  She has received fellowships from The Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, and the Vermont Studio Center. A 2013 finalist for the Split This Rock Poetry Competition, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in African American Review, BLACKBERRY: a magazine, Callaloo, DMQ Review, Gemini Magazine, Muzzle Magazine, Sou’wester, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and Tidal Basin.