Bestiarium Exterminii

Emilia Phillips

Bestĭārĭus  -a  -um  (bestia), belonging to animals: ludus, a fight
with wild beasts at a show

extermĭno  –are  (ex/terminus), to drive beyond the boundaries

I. Canis lupus familiaris, Tennessee, 2004 (euthanasia)

Pointblank, the retriever doesn't back down, never learned
to be gun shy, never heel: blood drools from your arm (anticoagulants

jiggered in your morning handful) and now you're tremorous
with a .357, your vanity gun, service revolver, stolen after forced

retirement. (Morphine enough to kill a regular man, and yet, still drive
to the station.
) My father's old partner, my mother's second

husband, she took you in after the wreck, asleep (self- anesthesia)
behind the wheel: two shattered femurs, a splenectomy, morsels

of your liver, lungs, and kidney removed. The strays were left inside
our fence by neighbors or found in the street, a Pekinese

came when the brown lab was in heat and this one first turned
on you the winter we had no heat, shoved from the bed

you shared (my mother slept on the couch), nagged by fleas, a thick
coat: now he's relentless, alpha, gnashes at the barrel,

you swear he's rabid, cock the hammer, and after (before you
stuff the accordion-limp body into garbage bags and drive to the

dumpster) you list into the back door and breathe, hot barrel searing
(healing?) the wound where the teeth sank in.


II. Elephas maximus indicus, pulling heavy machinery in Sheffield, England in a photograph for Illustrated War News, 1916 (beast of burden)

One track for the trolley, another for the working | | elephant, an adolescent scarred | | and pinched. The passengers rubberneck though we can't | | in the grain see their features, only ivory | | ovums of their upturned faces. The natural | | habitat for elephants born in the West | | is the cage. Just ahead, a man walks, his gaze | | to the camera, his expression of recognition but not | | knowing, Now or yet, now or yet. Shift | | your view, Plutarch said, and turn | | your curiosity inwards, if you delight | | to study the history of evils, We can | | assume the elephant didn't know | | what he pulled, that it weighed | | the same with each step, We can | | assume the elephant had no concept | | of strength except pulling, pulling, We can | | look out from a locus at which we've never stood, We can | | assume the man continued for several more | | seconds (Now or yet, now or yet) turned | | in the direction that would become us, we became, that we are, We can assume | | most cages can only be unlocked from within.


III. Columba livia, MI14-proposed war tactic (suicide)

                 Each carrier pigeon will be trained to fly
                 into Nazi searchlights with an incendiary
                                            as a letter.


IV. Equus ferus caballus, a veterinary log (diagnosis)

At night the black mare eats the fence, lips and gums pierced with splinters, tumid tongue dissolving the rails' ice crust.

Pica aversive presentation: oral. Lemon juice to the tongue upon a patient's apprehension after every ingestion attempt. Some will open their mouths to receive punishment, delight in the practice thereby null.

The mare won't be led with bridle to the barn where sweet feed germs the air. Three days she's eaten only what's inedible. Walking the path to pasture and from the box elder, I watch her at the post, her bite wrenched, moiling until the wooden stud is avulsed from the frozen earth. (The falling rails, hushed by snow.)

Aversive presentation: physical. A small water pistol is holstered in my coat. Should the patient attempt ingestion: a spray to the face. Cold water is most effective.

She drags the posts to the center of the pasture.

(Why do you waste? Why do you hoard?)

Her teeth flake like shale in her work of disassembling but she attempts no escape through the broken border.

I touch her bloated abdomen; tomorrow, unburden a great weight.


V. Homo sapiens, Kyushu Imperial University, May 1945 (vivisection)

                Sternum to navel, the scalpel glides

                and burred, opening again the body particular
                organ by organ,
                the lesser first, the dense liver, as music

                plays. (A sleepy lagoon and two hearts

                in tune.) The white masks loom like a dream
                before sleep, pain singing

                as if through glass (a drone)—

                It was almost
                heroic. (This moment of love will haunt me.)
                Both hands into the steaming abdomen. The freefall,
                the body rising

                on the parachute of the soul (out of the sky and slowly
                growing dimmer). The shadow of

                the Caucasian bird sharpens as we pray:

                               We mutiny like secrets, our infinite windows
                               of flesh. O knowledge, slippery,
                               you're heaved still warm onto steel.


VI. Myotis leucopterus, Iran, 2011 (bloodsport)

                The photographs of the downed drone reproduce
                like cells, in the thought-wombs. The blood of man

                can normally support only one

                parasite at a time: for the camera,
                the Guard skirted the display with an American flag
                made of plastic, and though the bars

                remain intact (an unidentified colonel runs his hand along 

                the wing), skulls relieve
                the stars.


VII. Vulpes vulpes, "Fox Box with Clouds," Mixed Media, 1975 (taxidermy)

after Stephen Paternite

                Fox lowers her head
                at the edge of a square pond
                full of still image.


VIII. Equus ferus caballus, Vivarium at the Instituto Clodomiro Picado (anti-venom)

Needled, the haunch ripples like upsurged water, volcanic black, its tail gathered against swatting. A scrub thumbs in the syringe of venom, this cycle's neurotoxin of terceopelo, dark-calmed & milked of its urinous syrup in another blue-white room. Three injections, three months, blood drawn hot from the neck of the seventeen-hand. Centrifuge, & separation—iron heavy, the red cells sink, as the white creams & filters out. In the vein, the needle vibrates. The horse bears dull teeth, gums inflamed. Again the flies gather over his body, notched ears shimmering silver.

Sea quieto.
                —Be still now.