Ancestor Mirror

by Shelby Handler

It’s good manners to pretend you understand blood
and the body: I spend evenings watching my lover fish out

six knives from the soapy sink, before asking me again
to never leave them in there while the faucet is on, before I say

nothing about their finger flesh padding blades, nothing about the desire
to suck the white tips of their phalanges off

and swallow. A real pill is something you don’t want to take inside the body
whole, but must. You must appreciate the shame of being caught

staring at one’s self in the mirror of a public restroom, seeing
all your previous selves, seeing you, here in a present

they have no precedence for. It’s very dangerous for
the past to know the future is warm-blooded and gushing

in flowers. Will I ever arrive here if Past Shelby knows
I already made it? There’s no use in searching for something

you might eventually not count as lost. There’s a famous polo player
who harvested cells off the skin of his champion horse as she died

and 12 years later, cloned her six times over. He lines the doubles up
before a match and pulls them like identical sweaters

from a closet. I switched jackets with J at the grocery last week
and lost her at the hummus aisle. Spotted her walking

to the check out and from behind, I thought I had found
myself. We made eye contact and I realized once again

you can’t look anyone in both eyes at once, but you can nod yours
towards the exit. The cloned horse looks in a mirror—

does she have a reflection at all? Do vampire rules apply here?
Or does she stare at her twin ancestor’s face and run as far

away as possible? A copy of an already copied key will open
no doors. We cloned one of the clone horses. It was born still

and shimmering. We cut the body open with a freshly washed knife:
it was all lilac inside. Huge branches and purpled bunches studded in dew.

Shelby Handler is a writer and educator living on Duwamish territory/Seattle, WA. A 2019 Hugo House fellow, recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins, Homology Lit, 3Elements Review, glitterMOB and We Will Be Shelter: Poems for Survival (Write Bloody 2014). Find more from them @shelbeleh