Creative Nonfiction: Once I Was An Animal (After Mary Oliver) by Megan Pillow

There’s a woodpecker perched on the side of the house outside my bedroom window. He spends his days drumming against the wood, flying away, coming back to drum again. Maybe he’s nesting, searching for food. Maybe he’s just drumming out his desires for a mate. I don’t know why he does it. But every time I hear him, I want to tell him to consider the cedar, the maple, the sycamore at the edge of the porch, anything but the dead wood of the house. Every time I hear the drumming, I think it’s me, it’s me.

Once I was an animal. Not a bird or a bat, not the soft-bodied kind, but an animal, slick-bodied, all heat and teeth and nails. I used to fuck and scream and gorge myself. I used to run my tongue along a slab of skin and decide whether or not to eat it.

I am not an animal anymore.

I am rooted in a room, rooted in a bed that I once shared with someone. The walls are thick as bark around me. Outside, the moon, the trees, the silver drift of snow.

The year is a spell, and I am casting about inside it.

There is no one here to touch me, so I touch myself. I think of the way I lick my lips before I kiss someone, of the way I lean in, of the shock of their skin against mine. I think of sliding three fingers between the breasts of someone in a club somewhere, of wiping that trickle of sweat away, of putting my fingers in my mouth to taste it. I think of the way someone will pull me to the edge of the bed and then turn me over, of the way they will run their hand down every knob of my spine while I pant and beg for it, of the way they will grip my hips and then thrust themselves inside. I think of the way a person says my name when they are inside of me, of the way they say my name when my fingers are inside of them, and I come, and I come, and I come, but there is no real place to come to.

There is no one here to touch me, so I dream of touch instead. Last night, I dreamed that someone took a fingertip and wrote the word love across my chest and cracked it open, but everything inside had gone to seed.

The year is a spell, and here we are, one lone letter from the end of it. Here we are, at the end, and yet I know that once a spell is cast, there must be something to break it, or it will cast on and on and on.

Somewhere beyond this room, beyond this midnight alone in the middle of cuffing season, there will be something more than just imagining. There will be music, the sound of the sun, the lift of geese into a clear blue sky behind the halo of a lover’s hair. There will be a crush of people that is safe again.

Someday, beyond this midnight, I will make love again, and perhaps the person will keep it.

I do not believe that that someday is soon.

For now, I root down in my bed, and I think of you. You think of me too. Here I am, the imagining, moving across the fields and forests, across the ice floes that thread the rivers, here I am on your doorstep. I am taking you in my arms. I am kissing you. We burrow into your bed together, skin to skin, and I say to you: someday, we will be animals again.

Meanwhile, the world goes on.

Megan Pillow is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in fiction and holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Kentucky. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in, among other places, in Electric LiteratureSmokeLong QuarterlyBrevity, The Believer, TriQuarterly, Guernica,, and Gay Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @megpillow. 

3 responses to “Creative Nonfiction: Once I Was An Animal (After Mary Oliver) by Megan Pillow

  1. Pingback: We Are Submerged | pidgeonholes: fearless literature·

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  3. Pingback: Favorite Creative Nonfiction 1st quarter 2022 – Charlotte Hamrick·

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