“Will You Tape a Big Zero on My Shirt?”

By: Maya Jewell Zeller



Unzip your skin suits darlings
and all you’ll find is more skin.
Under that, though, muscle, or fat,
gelatinous, my friend who cuts
cadavers tells me. Like a children’s
book about the body, something you discuss
nonchalantly while you toast their bread.

Sometimes they ask you strange and delicious
buttery questions, and no matter how you try
to follow the thought path, turning here
by the spring loaded squirt gun, there by the veins
in the ankle, you end up
with yes, I’ll use this masking tape.
I can make the zero with masking tape.

“What’s blood made out of?”
“What are genes, and yes, I know you don’t mean
the ones you wear, don’t make that joke”
and “So if you’re a mom, can you also be a kiiiiid?”
The type of question depends on if they’re six
or three or if they’re in the bath or brushing hair
or lying under a tree. The ants crawl
up the side of the house, carrying bread crumbs.

Inside their skin suits, the ants are crusty, full
of flesh. Squish one, you’ll see its skin suit
isn’t as flexible. “Can we have pet ladybugs?”
“What if we could unpeel our neighborhood?”
“I made a map of this city and it has this huge
building and then some houses and they all
have yards and beyond that there is just forest,
and it’s dark, do you want to see what’s beyond that?”




Maya Jewell Zeller teaches creative writing for Central Washington University, edits poetry for Scablands Books, and, with her partner, parents two children. Maya is the author of Rust Fish and Yesterday, the Bees, and the forthcoming collaboration (with visual artist Carrie DeBacker), Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts. She lives in the Inland Northwest.