Portrait of Simone de Beauvoir as a Beaver

Natalia Conte

They say the two most disruptive forces of nature
are man and beaver, both for the way
that they build their homes and
the way they destroy them.

Run your boomerang blade down my spine
as punishment for building my home of twigs,
ash, and other,
mold my curves, a makeshift hat
to heat the tips of your ears,
hiding your hair with hide of me.

This should be no difficult comparison:
the only beast who owns his own pelt
is man

I hike through silent hills
until my feet bloodstain the boots
and I can smell the stickiness
of resting sweat in the rooks of my elbows.
But no mother walks breathing distance behind here,
running her bone fingertips down my spine like a rod,
only animals hunch and you must be woman.

I strip down to skin and let the lavender and narcissus
slap my calves like an upright bass.

When I walk in the city,
I tent myself in coats to mask
the way my body ripples the silk 

because I wasn’t ready
to be seen when it happened,
taught courtship instead of the
surgical in and out,
his body leaving fluids and pain
and the linger of eyes
that cuts like a cleaver.

Sometimes I feel like a skinned thing,
my anatomy stretched and studied,
my pelt expensive, charming, and traded.

Author’s Commentary: This poem is a part of a larger project which seeks to personify notable feminists throughout the course of the movement, creating modern portraits of historic women. While reading Letters to Sartre, de Beauvoir’s intimate letters to her lifelong partner, I noticed that the philosopher frequently signed off with the phrase “your charming beaver” due to the similarity between her last name and the furry animal. I began reflecting on if there were similarities between the two creatures, women and beavers, and felt really at home playing with language associated with the body.

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Natalia Conte is an MFA candidate at NC State University. Previously, she worked as the Editor-In-Chief of Colonnades Literary and Art Journal and deeply enjoyed the opportunity to magnify important voices within the community. She has previously been published in So To Speak Magazine and Atlantis Magazine. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her small black cat Zen.