Lioness by Michelle Rachels; for more information, visit

her bottom jaw unhinged by a hippo, the lioness rests beside a lake

by J. Hiba

pelt-limp in the grainy silt

i remember how he blossomed

the waterdiamonds bursting

about his parted mouth yellow teeth

angling from ridges of gum

the second he took hold of my jowl

i missed my sisters

now they are watching amidst the grass

the hippo having retired to his green cave

a punishment, sapped and sinking

i feel my wound inching

through transcendence the sting

tunneling from one ear to the other

a horizon of steady ringing that only

sleep can smother of course i know

what death is

why else had we taken on the hippo

the days have forged a cemetery of our bellies

had the blessing arrived we’d have savored all

of the beast’s wet rubber

we are not hippos

they waste whatever is snagged in their flapping

jaws stomp haphazardly into ponds then erupt

through the ceilings

their toothshards undisciplined

this one could not even kill me could not

tear clean the bone that swings beneath my head

in a sling of mud-flesh what

am i to do with it

in this home where decay extends

its talons across all failed pursuits

clamps gradually tighter unhampered by

names my sisters know theirs but

if i called for them

they would not approach

it is the least they can do

someone must pay

the skindebt

now is not the time to crave their

nuzzles the heft of their perfect skulls

fly-stippled coats stem whiskers

what looks like the sun kneeling

to kiss my snout orange

is just the spill of its evening sow

soon i can offer my lineature

the silt will weep over

every railing of my bones imagine

two villages sinking into each other’s arms

and like the roar that gathers

family this too will be heard

for miles

About J. Hiba

J. Hiba is a VONA/Voices fellow and holds a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College. She currently works as an editorial assistant of economics and environmental science textbooks at W. W. Norton & Company. Her poetry has appeared in The Blueshift Journal and The Offing.