The Claws You Know

The Claws You Know

I down seven margaritas on Ash Wednesday, let the traveling man hack his
knuckles across my cheek until the inside of my mouth is in ribbons, wake up
between clusters of Cash Magic casino slips and defrosted Gulf shrimp tails.

Troy Landry brought the History Channel down Voodoo Bayou looking,
but the Rougarou is hiding with me, feeding me plantain herbs in place of cheap
Aspirin and tripping over the thirteen red beans I’m teaching him to count.

I tell him about his caricature at the Audubon Zoo; he fetches a milk carton,
tells me I’m not much better off—rehearses the begging song for the Courir de
Mardi Gras and prods me to spit up blood he wants combined in the roux.

Rougarou, loup-garou, reeks of oyster beds and citronella, doesn’t mean to,
but leaves cicada husks and shallow claw marks across waterlogged floor boards.
Together, we rally to increase Atchafalaya flow into the Terrebonne marshes,

carry pails of river water to the basin. We raise orphaned possum joeys, teach
them to self induce rigor mortis, to play dead. For 101 days I’m no statistic, just
a woman in the swamp, more afraid of a man’s Volvo than of floods and monsters.

Shelby Clark is currently a Poetry candidate within the University of South Florida’s MFA program. She is currently developing her thesis, a poetry collection focused on the US Southeast. Clark is similarly an aspiring sculptor with works currently on display at House of Shadows Gallery in Tampa, Florida.