Sweep the dust back

We sweep the dust back
into the cracks
between old oak floorboards.
Each day I see patterns in their
grains that point to
shapes, this time
rabbits and deer, like
pictographs on stone. One day the
permanent lines traced by
stress or insects
shift themselves like
candle-lit shadows and suddenly I see
two round, empty sockets in my floor.
Now I avoid that place
skip the room altogether most days,
avert my eyes if I have to walk through;
scared of their stare, so much
stronger than my own, so much more.

Cabin Cabaret

Our cabin cabaret, with moon
dances on pallets that bloom.
Outside, through gaps in cabin logs,
we hear twangs from strange bull frogs,
listen to sweet spring peepers
call to mate, imagine they speak.
Raise our cries up, our lies up, our wails in stark
contrast to the wild whispers in the dark.

Belts and Bodies

That year I got to be an expert
at pulling the belts from the pants
of dead white soldiers.
I’d bring home ten, twenty in a night–
the women would divide them by firelight,
see if any would fit the men
or the children in their lives.
The rest they scrapped,
made into bootlaces and purse strings
ties for the shelters and,
when we were starving, stew.
It got to be a hobby of mine
to slip the belts from living mens’ pants,
hand them back with a grin.
It got to where they called me along–
I’d rifle through the pants
then slide the belts off last,
the bodies a comforting presence
the bodies cold and unchanging.
It got to be an intimate dance:
me leaning in close
going through pockets
smelling the meat of them
wondering what the next step might be
after their belts come off–
whether I would undress them fully, and
dance with them, and
who these men were before,
me wondering why they had no place
that they were going to.

Fox in the Henhouse

The sleek thief through tall grass, her
bellyfur wet with night dew. The
moon draws in the clouds, her
yellow teeth emerge from drawn lips.
She breathes in scents,
lets them fall over her tongue like language.
Smells the
reeking from a long ways off, she
soon finds the
chicken house, absent its dogs;
once inside, a sense of settling-
she might have lived here, if fate had said so-
even as she takes the hen from the lowest roost
even as the captured hen begins the death screams-
the other chickens stay silent.

Sheep Poem 2

How many times, then, can I describe the exquisite
warmth of hiding your face in the
thick wool of a full fleece on a finewool sheep, the
silken curls, the
stray piece of dead and dried aster, or the
prickly scourge of bramble. And the fields covered in
thick white frost, so thick you mistake it for snow. The
steam that comes from nostrils that are too much like
yours, the steam that rises from the whole body: you
imagine you see her heat the way it comes off a car’s top in summer–
shimmering mirage-waves. And on your knees,
beside your ewe–for you dictate her failures and
fortunes more than she–face burrowed in the
sweet smell of mutton and lanolin and hay-shit and,
when her cud comes up, acetone. The way the
barn is sweet and warm and dry, and the
sheep flock silent and close. Each day
a new day, each day a
new opportunity to
describe the wooly beasts.

To Kill a Rabbit

I catch the rabbit by the back legs,
assess the prize,
savor the victory.
Any old dog would do the same.
Attempt a quick dislocation of the neck,
eyes still wide open,
no kicking fits,
worry that it’s not dead.
Go to string it up by the back legs, it
hangs and does not fight; slice the
artery and it does not bleed; sever the head and
realize it was already dead.
I hope that it would
thank me if it could.

Throw the head to the cats, who
yowl and scuffle and one wins out,
begins to gnaw on the ears.
They don’t imagine regret.
Tear the skin at the neck, start down the belly, find
fat deposits white and veined along the chest.
Move to the back, keep ripping skin,
strip the pelt too easily.
Back to the chest, the
fat goes all the way down the belly, it
does not act like fat,
I accidentally tear it and it spills
white milk that runs and mixes with the red blood on the
butchering table and I
stop breathing with you.
I understand at once,
slow down,
turn to the
setting sun in
agony.
If He really was,
I would curse His name.
I do so anyway.

And then I must finish.
It becomes even more important to finish. The
waste is incredible, it
weighs in my throat, it
beats at my temples, a
thousand rabbits sit on my chest,
I want to be able to cry.
But it must be finished.
The cats gather and I throw the mammary sacs down to them.
They growl and slurp at the sweetest milk,
perverted children,
while the deserving kits will starve.

Peel the skin backwards across her paws,
save her rabbits feet. The
cats come looking for more and I
throw them the pelt, too delicate to save.
Cut open the belly, pull out the insides,
relieved to find no pinkies inside, no wonder her
milk was so rich, her
glands so swollen.
I rinse the milk and blood from her body,
revel in the pinkness of the meat, she is
so beautiful.
Honor her as best I can with
herbs and it will
never be enough.