Hilary Vaughn Dobel: Teratoma

Once, I was born from an indefatigable
incision. My father taught me the riddle

of the Sphinx the way some parents
teach their children to read a compass.

I’d sit in my nightgown and sing to myself,
Four legs in the morning, two at noon,

three legs in the nighttime. I hungered
for the body of a lion and a woman’s face.

They were inside me, hidden,
in a cyst full of hair, lung-buds,

or teeth. I had a cousin, she was monstrous
beautiful like a slap across the mouth,

and her bag was full of lipstick and maraschino
cherries. I used to sit up late as a watchman,

used to imagine myself setting
the hounds on her, over and over again.



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