i. The Epiphyte
Sprouting from folds
of trunk and branch,
it reaches up to sun and down to soil.
The narrow tendrils twist and choke
to gain support.
The scaffold dead, the vines persist upright,
supplant the frame that formed them.
ii. The Brood Parasite
Before she killed her stepsisters,
she’d memorized their mother’s plumage
Her brighter mouth the most insistent,
the others starved to weakness,
she pushed them off the ledge.
Laying now herself, she picks the host
who most evokes the nest that she destroyed.
iii. The Blood Meal
Buried in the skin, swollen
she awaits the males.
Spermatophores with legs,
they exist to mate and die,
and to renege:
They turn their pointless mouths
to her immobile bulk.
iv. The Adelphophage
Each womb’s a feeding ground
where sharp-toothed fry first learn to hunt.
Of eighty young, just two survive to birth,
their brothers sacrificed
to bring them up to size.
We know the strong
by how they thrive.