Prose Poems by Jaden Gootjes

             By Jaden Gootjes

Ravaged bodies dangle from hooks cutting through thick flesh. Pink skin tainted crimson with blood and intestines. Clumps of organs and entrails decorate concrete corners. I stand before an assembly line style hell, blade in my hand, I cut throats. Red, flat spray spurts from their necks, splattering across my rubber apron and boots. My face is unmoved, my features stale and unwavering. I cut too deep, down to the torso and out falls an embryonic sac, filled with pig fetuses swirling in cold fluid. Purple lumps in place of eyes. Soft tissue in place of hooves. She wasn’t supposed to be this way; I knew this. I wasn’t even sure that it entirely made sense, that my cut was precise enough, deep enough, to exile these fetuses from their mother’s dead womb. Everything pauses around me, the hooked bodies stop moving, my coworkers are gone. It’s just me, blade in my hand, the smell of death and blood and guts and meat swarms my orifices. I look at the gaping belly of the mother. I reach up, heave her body off the thick metal hook. Lay it on the ground, away from the stream of blood hurtling body parts and organs toward a drain. I make a peace sign with my hand, reach down, and shut her open, scared eyes. I cup her round cheek with my hand, feeling a soft breath against my skin. I crawl inside the jagged cavity of her body. It is strangely warm, flesh fuses and closes around me. It is completely dark inside of her; I feel her heart pulse once, twice. I feel myself melt into her body, become her flesh, replace her children; I am the same body, the same breath, the same blood. 

“Doe (Overexplained)”
             By Jaden Gootjes

She stands in the clearing beneath a sky dressed in emerald and lime. Her thin neck gives to small, powerful hips. Lighter splotches where white once dotted are just fading on the slope of her back. Her legs are long and narrow, cleaved hooves tucked between beetles and decomposing fauna. Her face is delicate, the sharp curvature of her skull apparent beneath a trim pelt of sepia fur. Her eyes are large and black mirrors with dark lashes. I feel a lightness to my body, a recognition I’ve never felt before, a realization of beauty, of worth, of innocence, of nature, of blood, of instinct. I unsling the gun from my chest, place it gently among the trinities and umbrella plants. The flora closes its grasp on the barrel and the metallic sheen is obscured by leaf litter and humus as the earth consumes it, hammer first. I face the other side of the muzzle before dirt fills in the barrel. I shift my gaze back to her; she does not raise her white tail or flare her nostrils. She glances at me as I advance towards her, and she lowers her body gracefully, like a girl, to the forest floor. She curls her front legs under her head and flicks her big, flower petal ears at me. I step closer, and she does not shy away from my approach. I move myself, with as much grace as I can manage, to the ground beside her. I lean back, lay my head on her pulsing stomach. I stare up at the canopy, at the sun, at the leaves, at the branches. Me, the doe, me, the doe, me, the doe. I am her son, her brother, her father, her blood. She is my flesh, my skin, my body.

- Jaden Gootjes is a Michigan-based poet studying English writing at Northern Michigan University. She expects to graduate in May 2024 with her B.S. She has been a dedicated vegan for approximately six years. She is most interested in themes of feminism, mental illness, and the intersection of animal and human identity. 

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