Baited | by Salem Dockery

The cat sees ghosts in our apartment and I’m jealous.
             I need the
             jump scares every now
             and again to keep my heart pounding.
Each taxonomy of animal has the same number of heartbeats
             in its life.            The hummingbird equal
             to the albatross;
             the cat to the woman to the whale.

My grandpa used to tell me
                            if you nail a horseshoe
                            to a barn, it’ll last 100 years
             so hang it ‘round my neck and watch me dance
             as if it came still red from the
anvil to my milk-fed flesh.

I already take more pills
than he does;
              he asks my grandmother
              for half-Dewar’s half-water when his heart starts
              acting up and even when mine doesn’t,
I treat it the same.

I’m becoming less of a wide-eyed doe
            in the wake of you,
            with your slow, vicious heartbeat, you’ll live forever, it mouths,
            how fast you make mine jerk,
            and what betrayal we buried in the soft
                          soil of the gulley.
            But I still bear the brand of noli me tangere
            on my moonlit ass,
                          naked as my hands catch nothing but silt
                          at the bottom of the river. I picked
my own switch for this.

So my silence is an exorcism in true Southern vernacular.
          My friends drank
          whiskey on Faulkner’s grave and all
                       I got was a mouth full of bees.
           I spat the sleeping queen back into
           the hive with my pheromones still wet
           on her thorax, ransacked the honey.
                         Her heart beats
                         about 1260 times per minute.
                         How lucky that must be.

Once, I cut my toe off and I only really
            feel it now when my leg falls asleep.
The same way blindness is said to be
            balanced out with better hearing,
            my fish-tail toe and
            dead tooth only give fire to the way I kick
            and bite at everything around me. If
                         I get an abscess
                         in my slick mouth,
            right where the nerve is dead,
            I’ll get a gold fake; it’s a spoken contract
                        no one but me
                        is holding me
            to. That’s the
            way I usher
unhappy endings into the universe.

Once a possum caught its tail in a trap
             my grandpa set, and it shrieked until he
             called me over to watch as he grabbed
                          his pistol and fired it.
                          My heart is thrashing loudly now.        Let this be a lesson then;
                                                                                                I never should have made a sound.



Salem Dockery is a queer nonbinary poet and Pushcart nominee growing palm trees in Durham, NC. Their work can be found in apt, and they have a poem forthcoming in INCH. They curate a cooler self at


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