“Ownership,” a Poem by Gabrielle Bates

From the Collection Judas Goat

January 26, 2023  By Gabrielle Bates

in memory of J

Yes, I have trouble dwelling in what’s mine.
No, I did not suspect his pain.

My mind is the one that’s still here,
that received the news, then saw the bone,

its row of flat, herbivore’s teeth
absorbing green from the moss.

Bent close, I described it until it was strange,
then familiar, then stranger—a character

transplaced from Ovid, saved or punished,
storied deer but concocted around the hymn of him

I’d known, if shallowly. A boy. I’d touched
his shoulders; I’d watched him dance in the fat

intersection of College and Magnolia, red lights glossing his open mouth and limbs.
His being now: a chrysalis of flesh and hide amassing then dissolving away

as the wind picks up, rhythmic but ruptured
on the bluff, a statue that could never be of stone.

His bed was elevated on crates and concrete blocks.
That I have always loved a storm

that can’t touch me is no secret.
What if I touched it. All of it. Description

drifting all over the dashboard, a running
boy’s essence poured into a deer’s mouth,

displacing the deer’s essence, running on and stumbling
uphill heaven-haunted toward the sound.


Excerpted from Judas Goat by Gabrielle Bates. Used with permission from Tin House. Copyright © 2022 by Gabrielle Bates. 

Gabrielle Bates
Gabrielle Bates
Gabrielle Bates’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, American Poetry Review, and other publications. A writer, visual artist, and cohost of The Poet Salon podcast, Bates is originally from Birmingham, Alabama, and now lives in Seattle, Washington.

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