Paola Ferrante

Gestational Stage

Did you believe me like you believe the Discovery
Channel when I said a woman like a seal comes
to ground only
to breed and nurse

like Doris Lessing
with her baby boy, trapped
but behaving beautifully

despite the sharks?
Letting go is hard to do.
Especially when there are teeth.

When we met you knew
your place on the food chain,
that sealskin key chain was better
than a rabbit’s foot
you said; let’s get lucky. You knew

the patterns of the hunt,
how a man knows to wait
for her white coat to become
a ragged jacket, how a seal becomes
just womb and breast, a pup feeding from
fat stores underneath her skin. You knew

for months and years
a seal will not see
the mouths that eat her,
take her outsides leaving
her locked in her skin locked in
a trunk, a longing
to remember
how to swim.

I said they used to use
seal blubber for light,
fetal tissue to power
electric generators; when we talked
about it we talked around
it. It was never
him or her.

Just teeth, a tiny tail
paddling against
the current because

you could not believe
when I said sometimes
a seal departs from her usual
diet of cephalophods, birds, small fish.

Sometimes she’ll
eat a shark slowly,
from the inside.

Paola Ferrante's poetry and fiction have appeared, or are forthcoming, in The Fiddlehead, The Puritan, Minola Review, The Eyewear Review, New Poetry, Overland, The /tƐmz/ Review, Geometry and Third Point Press. Her poetry was long listed for the 2017 Thomas Morton Memorial Prize, and her fiction was long listed for SmokeLong Quarterly's Flash Fiction Awards. Her chapbook, The True Confessions of Buffalo Bill, is forthcoming with Anstruther Press. She resides in Toronto, Canada.