The Phylogeny of Fearhttps://i2.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Stage.jpg?fit=1920%2C1280&ssl=119201280Michaela MayerMichaela Mayerhttps://barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Michaela-Mayer.jpg
how when i carry the trash bags out, rustling
plastic, my cat crouches in wide-eyed animal fear
and i think, really, is any dread so different? we all
know the amygdala: the paleomammalian cortex,
as if we carried an ancient prey animal in our brains,
splayed under the fingers of terror. how i learned
from a book that intimidation, too, is abuse:
when he leans forward into my face, blue eyes
bulging, spittle flying in strange rage and i think this can’t be real—but it is real, and i must
endure it. how some days i cowered and others
shouted back, never content with just one part of fight, flight, freeze. pinned, i am both hooved and tusked,
ready to flee or buck. for this I was blamed.
imperfect prey, my chest squeezes in the tight fist
of fear whenever someone is displeased—
vestigial deer rearing in my throat,
an easily-spooked, dangerous creature.
Michaela Mayer is a kindergarten teacher and poet from Virginia. She holds a B.A. in English from the College of William & Mary and a Ma.Ed. in Elementary Education from the same institution. Her works have been previously published in Burning House Press, Mineral Lit Mag, Minute Magazine, Snapdragon Journal, Winged Nation, Perhappened, and Windows Facing Windows.