The Phylogeny of Fear

The Phylogeny of Fear

The Phylogeny of Fear 1920 1280 Michaela Mayer

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.

Header photograph © Galduryndari D.

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