“When a tsetse fly,” a poem by Mari Pack.

It’s as welcoming as a mother, but none of this was personal.

When a tsetse fly

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chews your skin with its scissor teeth, through delicate capillaries for the sweet stain of red, it does so completely in earnest.

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It ushers in the flagellate protozoan Trypanosoma brucei gambiense. Those misshapen parentheses swim — and they must swim — through passageways, the secrets of your body. The tsetse fly is long gone by the time your central nervous system starts to stutter.

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A child catching her breath over the steep hill of a consonant.

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What the doctors call sleeping sickness is to the tsetse fly nothing more than the squeal of a hawk catching a barn mouse. Life carrying itself out.

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Take comfort when you lie awake at night, terrors marauding through brain tissue before the coma, devoted as a mother, arms reaching wide, comes to claim you.

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None of this was personal.

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Mari Pack’s work has appeared in Yes, Poetry, Quail Bell Magazine, and others. The Description of a New World, her first chapbook, was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2019. Mari is an editor for Guideposts.

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Featured image, detail from a photo by Dhruv Patel.

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