Simon Costello

Simon Costello

Taxidermy Ethics for Beginners 

Outside a dog is hollowing out the chest of a cat
that’s been knocked down by one of the neighbour’s vans
who even now I’m certain will never come forward
and admit to it

but while I watch this animal sustain itself on the particles of another
I know somewhere a local bistro is throwing fresh scallops
into the recycling bin
while a child’s boat made of newspaper slips
down a storm drain

And fifty years earlier Robert Lowell is rinsing out 
his private correspondence with Elizabeth Hardwick 
compiling them into what will be published as ‘The Dolphin’
           See it’s this divisive segment of my zoom lecture
the consequences of his practise not only 
for the other party involved
but the broader implications it would have
on ethics in writing that has me thinking
of when our teeth collided into ivory fragments at noon
how we pocketed each other’s dislodged bones
the way limestone cradles fossil in its yellow basement

And like a depleted cat taken home from a roadside and posed
           I’ve never felt more emptied

because even now I hear the scratching
of the Polish sculptor I keep in the dormer attic
sitting down to the model suspended mid air
gorging his hands on moist clay           summoning
an interpretation of anatomy from spun muck
as they exist in the eye as static atoms
and like a maguey worm
           paused midsentence
in a bottle of Mezcal
all this
is nothing
but distilled freefall

And it hurts to think of them up there
ghosting in this private exchange
relativism dictates that by the end
what is produced will look anything   but human
so the model’s identity is protected
and isn’t this nominally ethical? 

Wouldn’t the opposite be to drag you out into the middle of traffic?
Just as the scallops are beginning to turn
as animals are being stamped with perpetual license plates
pry wide your Adonis husk
set off fireworks from your ribcage
ignite your name in the sky
and say           This cannibal lance work is uncompromising art

and will you believe me
           when I say I did it all for you?

SIMON COSTELLO’s poems have appeared in Banshee, Magma and The Irish Times. In 2021 he won The Rialto Nature and Place Poetry Competition and was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. He lives in Co. Offaly, Ireland.