by diane raptosh
A man who is his own wife gives birth to his identical twin through his belly button. For months, he thinks it’s a cyst. Fistula. Ingrown hair. A fir tree germinating in his spleen. He father-mothers this shriven boy, fine and tiny as walnut lung. With equal parts sweetmeats and a firm touch, he bathes this baby in a small green bowl—that wee, webbed blood of living kin. Nights, the man daubs his chafed nipples with tea bags and lays a wet cloth on his eyes. He tugs at the far left swirl of his mustache. He sometimes wonders out loud: Am I famished? Is this fullness? When he kisses his own hand, his wife strokes his cheek.
“Rugged Western Individualism” was first published in The Untidy Season: An Anthology of Nebraska Women Poets (2013)