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On the Motion of Animals by Camille Rankine


Listen to what I’m trying to tell you, you say softly. Your mouth is on my inner thigh and I know you mean it. Your teeth are on my neck and I know you mean it. Your hands cradle my face and I know you mean it. Your arms enfold me when I feel unsafe and I know mean it. You will slay everyone who has ever hurt me and I know you mean it.

We both wanted to be honest and now we are both in pain. Was it mercy or was it foolishness, I don’t know. Is it better to carry the weight of everything we’ve never given voice to but continues to make a home at the back of our minds. Let’s work this out—a promise and a threat, both.

A languaged being can live and thrive between spaces but I still need words sometimes. I am here, you say, and what more do you need, and I’m not going to anywhere. Then you say: But—

At that moment I know there’s a universe that has exploded behind a single word: but do my actions make you feel unloved but it’s nothing to overthink but it’s not going to mean anything if you don’t see what I see in you but you’ll just keep second-guessing whether you’re someone worth loving—

I’m only saying that sometimes it makes me wonder if I’m that unloveable if you can’t say it, after all this time.

On the Motion of Animals
Camille Rankine

I am trying to tell you
something but my mouth
won’t move

I want to hold you
but it comes all wrong
I am marooned

in this body
with no gift
for puppetry

I want to
know you I think
I could

love you like you
probably should
be loved but my love

is a fish
in the wrong
kind of water

where I want
to hold you but
there’s someone else

in the room
the radiator’s screaming
and my arms won’t move

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This poem appeared in Incorrect Merciful Impulses by Camille Rankine, published by Copper Canyon Press, 2016. Shared here with profound gratitude.

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Comments (3)

  • Billy

    Your intuition is telling you something, the quiet, impartial voice is to be trusted. If it’s louder than faint, and tinged with emotion, then don’t trust it, for it’s your conditioned experience talking.
    When someone’s heart knows what’s true, then their actions and their voice speak as one, in harmony

  • Tania

    So timely. I felt this. This week I allowed myself to be vulnerable and then heard this “But, I can’t promise anything…”

    And I retreat.

  • Robin

    “I love you… but…”

    thanks for this …


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