Monthly Archives: August 2012

From the sequel to A Radiance

Box

I have caught many bats;
it is simple enough to fill
one toe of a discarded
pair of pantyhose
with a palm-full of sand.
Tie it off with string so that
a sock becomes a shuttle-cock.

Set yourself beneath
a jaundiced street-light,
beneath the darting shapes of moths
and wait for larger shade to flit
Between you and the light.

Toss your gentle burden then,
and be prepared to catch the falling bundle
of snarled paper wings and claws.
It lands in your palm,
the size of a small paperback
though lighter in weight.

Wide veined wings that, in lamplight,
are delicate as mesh, as medieval vellum,
writ through with long quill-like bones.
A miniscule body wrapped round in soft fur,
the texture of napped velvet.

I will never forget the rich, fruity smell
the creature had, like apples found in the bracken
at the tail end of autumn; such delicate rot.

The creature I found
in the daylight was different.

A month after I arrived,
when the pain was still vivid
and I fell asleep every night
after the others were done with me,
curled in bed crying and missing my dog,
I came back from the fields a little bit early.

A cut on my palm had split open again,
releasing ill-colored fluids and a stench
That even the foreman could not ignore.

I was an hour early and I knew
that the housemother, the proper one
back now from the hospital,
was laid up in her room watching
As the World Turns and nursing her hip.

I waited outside, beneath her window,
knowing that I would have the opportunity
to read for a few minutes if I snuck
into the house after she started to snore.

I spent the time in aimless looking,
longing for the novel I’d hidden
in the frame of my bed.
The yard was full of scatty crabgrass,
only the visible lawns were ever manicured.

In the centre was a large, tall oak
with a gnarled root system,
one protuberance of which resembled
the sleek head of a wolf.

This creature frightened me,
though I still spoke to it.
All trees were my friends then,
I needed protection.

I bent to the brown earth near its jaws,
avoiding a sharp splintered root-tooth,
and cleared the acid soil from its tongue
saying, ‘Do you feel better, Wolfie?

Next time I have meat,
I’ll save some for you,
if you will help me get some
before the other girls eat all of it.’

A slight shift in cloudscape threw
a shadow on the head, creating
the hint of a smile.
I felt better already, filled
with the possibility of future
after-meal fullness.

I looked up at that moment, past
the trunk, a surface riven and split
like a three-year-dry riverbed,
at the wall of the cottage.

There, beside the painted lead drainpipe,
a black shape was clinging
to an outcrop of gray stone.

A bat, quite a small one, hanging
head downward and visibly shivering.
It felt cool in my hand, light as nothing.
It clung across the split in my palm.

I knew it was sick.
I thought, ‘I can help you.’
God help me.
I thought, ‘If you are hungry
there are bugs in the yard.’

I noticed the smell
was different immediately;
more cloying, more viscous,
it caught in my throat
as though all the mass
that was once inside it
had moved to the air.
A nimbus of odor.

Inclining my head to the window
I heard a deep snore.

I turned the knob slowly,
muffling my entrance
as much as I could and creeped
to my unlockable room.

It was virtually empty.

Two beds, desks, a chest of drawers,
my black plywood trunk.

I laid the bat on my bed, on top
of the itchy polyester coverlet,
and opened the trunk-lid.

The outside was shiny, edged in chrome.
The inside was papered in round, red flowers
which might have been poppies.

My clothes were mostly gone from it.
There was my extra blanket,
the Nike shoebox I found on the road,
filled with the shredded remains
of my family pictures and the torn edges
of my fathers halted letters.

I could not throw them away.
Sometimes a face, or fragment
of word, was still partly visible.

The pieces had been made soft
enough in their destruction
to form a good nest.

I lay the bat among the fragments,
offered it water-drops
that it would not take
from the palm of my uninjured hand.
I thought, ‘Later on
I will see about crickets.’

I placed the box into the trunk,
without fully shutting the lid.
I wanted to let the air in so that
it could breathe without that foul smell.

I got through dinner imagining its rehabilitation.
I would heal it; of course it would love me.
I would train it to fly in circles above my head.
It would summon its friends to dive-bomb my enemies.
I would never be lonely, or hungry, again.

I ate fast, thinking this, able to keep hold
of at least some of my rationed chicken.
Even if the bigger girls were able
to snag away most of my meal. I pocketed
a fragment of skin, a splinter of bone marrow,
an offering for my friend in the yard.
A thanks unto God.

I had five minutes free before bed,
my roommate was showering and for once
had not forced me to go with her.
I opened my trunk with my bandaged,
newly disinfected hand.

Of course it was dead.

I know now that it had probably been rabid.
Only God knows how lucky I was,
and how my luck continued.
I left it there to mummify
among the fragments of my family,
the papers proved absorbent;
it desiccated neat as a fig,

drying into a small folded kite
of leather and wood that I took out and stroked
when I needed to be touched by something
and couldn’t sneak out to the barn to play with the cows.

Eventually my housemother found it
while I was at work or school.
She liked to have the occasional surprise inspection,
loved confiscating things and displaying the evidence,
with the children who hoarded them, to visitors
who frequently came from the churches
that provided funding for the orphans.

Presbyterians like to know
what they are paying for.
They tend to like visible results
that they can count out by hand.

It was a wonder to me that the housemother,
thorough as she was, never found
my roommates metal-handled switchblade
or her small store of condoms.

She had hidden them badly,
in her top drawer, barely
covered by the underwear
that she was allowed to have-
a forbidden luxury I envied.

The dried bat and my papers
went into the collection she kept for the sponsors.
I was trotted out weekly, along with my box, displaying
the heathenism she worked so hard to convert.
My intractable nature was good justification
for the salary she drew, the food she consumed.

A mark went into my file,
and I was given a punishment.
Three extra hours, spent every weekend,
scrubbing on my hands and knees
the cement laundry room floor.

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From the sequel to A Radiance, currently under construction

Letters

My father wrote me every day, at first.
He bought a desktop Far Side tear-away calendar,
one joke and a date, which he glued onto notecards,
scribbled on the backs, stamped, addressed,
and slid into the post box where they began their slow
journey that led across several state borders.

I liked the humor, bitter and fine.
I loved the idea of a world filled
with brutal talking animals; cows
that knew and accepted their fate
as soon-to-be hamburgers, bulbous, pin-headed
men waking to an early-morning windowsill
visit from the Chicken of Despair (the Blue Bird
of Happiness being otherwise occupied).

I would come in from class
or my work in the fields- hours spent
shifting golden bales that weighed
as much as I did, the palms of my hands
torn across the lifeline by the friction of twine-
and the postcard would be waiting for me,
evidence of passing time. His, and mine.

I would rinse my palms in the sink,
bloodying my blue jeans, and slink
to my room like the dog that I was,
used to showing my belly, trying not
to be caught with something
unearned and good.

When Tallon found them she shredded
the paper, spat on them, unable to stand
any evidence of love, applied to a creature
she rated as low as myself. She hated
what she could not have.

In the end I did not have to room with Allison.
Libby Smart had warned the temporary housemother
to show me no trust. I roomed with Tallon instead
and, as was usual under their system of fagging,
found every moment I had, every motion
I made, answerable to her.

Since I was unwilling to shower,
she supervised my bathing,
and quite soon moved beyond
the usual comments. ‘Skinny
little no-breasts, what man gonna want you?
Your bald pussy stinks so much ain’t
no man gonna eat it.’

So, being larger than I was, though six months
the younger, and of less delicate appetite
than that she ascribed to her imaginary men,
she took what she wanted.

I had spent my life learning
the dubious art of provocation,
I knew how to raise a temper
to boiling, how to increase anxiety;
I hadn’t yet learned to fight.

My mother had given me a neon green folder
of Lisa Frank stationary, addressed
in her deliberate hand: ‘2118 12th Ave. West’,
pre-stamped and ready for sending.
She gave me five hot pink pens
that were scented with strawberries.

She wondered, always,
why I never wrote back.

The phone was bound to the kitchen wall
by a strangulating length of coiled cord.
It was the color of cream, dirtied by fingers.

My parents provided a pre-paid Sprint phone card
for use once a week at a predesigned time.
Tuesday night, at a quarter past seven,
After the brand new episode of Deep Space Nine.
We could speak for half an hour and I know
that they wondered why so often it was less.

The point of fagging is to force conformity
to an ideal, an ethos, a mode of life.
I was a bitch. I was to be her bitch.
Tallon made sure that I learned that.
I must never forget to whom I belonged.

I still dream about her horn-shaded hands
wrapped, undreaming, unlying, around
my starved neck, working the cords
of my voice-box as I struggled to speak.
The receiver glued to my ear,
vibrating in a sauce of her spit and my sweat.

The time, a week in, when I begged to come home,
my parents mistook desperation for homesickness
and thought that my fingers, in the childish rage
I was there to correct, had been
the ones to end the call.

I remember the ache in my ribs
when they connected with
the padlocked refrigerator.
Sometimes, even now,
I dream of her look.

When in those moments I wake up annihilated,
I cry out for my dog now a full decade dead,
and shake the broad shoulder
of my good husband who braces my shuddering,
crying out loud enough in his tenor
for the neighbors to hear,
‘You are real, you are real,
for God’s sake, you exist.’

A month after I first arrived, the parish minister
named, appropriately Hart (a doelike man
who knew my father from seminary)
invited me as a favor into his home,
to meet his new family.

I remember his face, thin, with large dark eyes,
but recall next to nothing about his wife
beyond that she was young
and, as the phrase goes, heavy with child.

I only met her once.
She knew about vipers.

She might have been blonde,
or I might tend to impose
my own mother’s face
in the space for all mothers.

Before dinner they showed me round
their manse, a delicate cottage surrounded
by maples in full burning leaf-blossom.
The nursery was ready, a soft white room,
which anticipated the birth by a good three months.

Already there were shelves,
lined full of books,
far too old for a baby.
Made more for my age.

They were a full run of children’s monster-stories,
by R.L. Stein. I had never been allowed
to read them at home, too close to Satanism,
but there they’d had little attraction
even when classmates in my various schools
passed them around, trading in playground currency,
the future’s market. Now I craved
lives more terrible than mine.

I could fit three slim volumes into the sleeves
of my patchwork neon jacket, a donated
windbreaker made for a young man.
The last book I chose bore a cover featuring
a young girl in purple coveralls holding
a demonic green mask, her dark pigtails
just visible enough to reveal her gender.

I excused myself with twelve-year-old logic;
reasoning that I had nothing else to read
since I had, as punishment for impudence,
lost access to the library (the fact that my need
for security made it difficult for me to return
anything borrowed did not at all help).

If I asked Reverend Hart for permission,
which he would probably have granted,
the word would get back to my father that my mind
was still warped, my attitude wrong, that I
was still in need of correction, still insufficient
(whatever that meant, I was never sure)
and my unbound sentence would spool out
that much longer. Bad logic, even for a teenager.

Halfway through the last book,
which I read while hiding under my bed
curled on lemony scented mid-century
linoleum, Tallon was sent to collect
what I owed. And I was punished,
by her, for stealing.

Later, I was punished again by the housemother
for my histrionic, overacted screaming
which interrupted the plot of her favorite soap opera.

People on the receiving end
of a few prescribed spankings
do not shriek like that.
The housemother was right.
Children receiving that punishment
will barely cry out at it.

Of course Liddy Smart was forced
to contact my father. Daddy spoke
to me once, a short while after, to tell me
that I’d shamed him. That I had lowered
his value in the eyes of a friend
and so I was reduced in his estimation.

I could not deny it,
though my weeping for home
quickly disgusted him.
Had he not lived, for a while,
in town with his grandmother?
That was hard on him, too.

I needed to grow up, quickly,
and take it like a man.
If I wanted to amount to anything,
beyond the prophesied madwoman,
I would remain where I was.

I needed some character.
Some suffering development.

A few days after that phone call
the postcards suddenly stopped.
It took some time for the mail
to catch up with people
who were shunting away from each other
at the speed of sound shot down a wire.

A new week, a new project

Driving

It was a nineteen hour drive
to South Carolina.
We took it in one day.

Leaving our wood-and-brick house
at three in the morning, the house
my father had largely grown up in,
my whole family drove all the way north
in our clanking used van.

There were a series of vans,
battered, all filled,
when we bought them,
with the dust of other bodies.
I was used to the gritty feel
of not owning much.

The shades my mother chose
were Mary’s colors; blue and gold,
flecked with bright minerals,
matching the uniforms I wore
for a couple of years
in the private school dignity insisted on
which we could scarcely afford.

My father tore out the van’s middle seat,
secured the TV from the kitchen,
the VCR, to the black trunk
with candy-striped bungee cords.
The trunk was mine, though I
had not packed it, or even
seen it properly before.

The TV had an adaptable plug
that fit into the cigarette lighter.
When I was left alone in the front seat
while Dad made his weekly visitations
to the old shut-in ladies
I would read for a while, grow bored,
and plug the metal lighter in
until the coils grew as red and appetizing
as cherries and I would have the pleasure
of filling the carriage with the scent of burnt fingers.

Now, in the nominal morning,
I leaned between the tinted window
and my sleeping brother, breathed in
the scent of children and dogs
while my parents sat up front, holding hands,
listening to reruns of Paul Harvey.

I woke at six with an aching bladder
in the parking lot of McDonalds.

I took Spot out first, his muscular neck
straining against his purple collar,
watching as he arced his leg
above the ragged highway bushes.

If no one had been watching
I would have laid my scent over his.
We were as well matched
as two-year-old horses.

As it was, I slid the side door open,
greasing my fingers in the bowels
of love-bugs who had died joined
and mating, mistaking the scent
of road for pheromones.
I sealed him in.
My young Dalmatian.

If I’d had my choice,
I would have had pancakes.
As it was, I found after using the bathroom,
that Daddy had ordered me
an egg McMuffin. A treat, he thought,
though it tasted of chemicals.
Maybe it was a treat,
for him.

My sister and brother had the cheaper
French Toast Dippers.
My mother had a coffee and half
a burnt hash brown. Her face
was pale already, strained,
hands tearing at her cuticles.

We were halfway up
the Florida coast.

We spent the ride watching
bootlegged recordings of Red Dwarf.
I was unaware of the crush I had
on Dave Lister, though I liked watching
his character enough to keep repeating
the episodes we had over and over,
until the tapes grew snowy, wearing out.

My delicate china-doll sister
could take only so much, squirming,
an eight-year-old in pinafore,
crying to go home to Virgie.
Day sat as usual, red-faced, stuffing,
his hands compressing his ears,
muffling the sound of his world
in the bright curls of his mullet.

I expected a fight, parental shouting,
the typical threat to turn around, go home.
It didn’t happen. I got my way.
I hadn’t learned yet how much
that can cost you.

We arrived in darkness,
different from the one
that swathed us when we left.
I was aware of the stench
of near cattle, the vague shapes
of trees, stone sepulchral buildings
leaning in, almost near enough to touch.

A porter was waiting
to let us into the Guest House.

There were three large bedrooms,
three large beds, the wooden furniture
looking worn but not quite institutional.

We piled onto the biggest bed,
parents, children, dog,
and watched an episode
of The Twilight Zone.
It was the one set on New Year’s Eve.

At the stroke of midnight,
the bad people all become their masks.
They scream and scream at their new faces
that are really their old ones,
brought to the surface.
I still hate disguises, whatever the cause.

I fell asleep afterwards,
between my parents.
For once they let me stay there,
though Daddy carried sister and brother
to their own borrowed beds.

He cuddled me, later, stroking
my long, snarled hair,
complaining of dog-farts.
I loved it. We still rarely touch.

Like all travelers
who voyage in darkness
along those vague paths,
I had to wait until morning
to know where I was.

How sweet…

Amazing Grace

We think the wrong things are grotesque.
A few minutes ago I watched
a surgical video on Youtube,
filmed in Nepal, where lawyers
are not so well heard of.

A male patient in early middle age;
his bare distended stomach
was the only visible part of him, the rest
blocked off by a square blue tarp with a window
in the centre exposing the surgical site.

The male nurses swabbed
his shorn belly with brown
turpentine, one switched on the radio,
flooding the room with Asiatic pop.

The doctor made his incision,
parting the skin as though unseaming
a wallet, a small abattoir steaming within.
The intestines were coiled in a spiral,
organized, resembling nothing at first
but cotton candy on a stick.

The surgeon pulled them out,
splayed pinkish and bulging
across that blue tarp, undulating
slightly with a life beyond digestion.

The tall nurse with the face-mask
that barely covered his dark beard
held a child’s bathing basin,
the shape of a kidney, the colour of sky,
for the doctor to decant in.

He made a small incision in the smooth flesh
of the intestinal wall, the motion reminding me
of Friday-night cooking, and ran his gloved fingers
across the length of the hose from the base of the stomach,
compressing the sides of the intestines so that
they touched in an obscene way, like a chef
extracting frosting from a cone.

Whatever was in there quickly bulged,
flowing in a growing lump, reacting against
the finger-pressure, swelling as it travelled
its long convoluted route, rising from egg
to cantaloupe, bursting at last through
the three-inch crack in its duodenal embankments.

Worms poured out in a wave,
thousands of them, the length
and colour of cooked linguini,
fell into the basin while the sitar played
and the nurses laughed. They writhed
in their shit-coats, blindly groping
the walls for the home they had lost.
I can only imagine the smell that they had.

The doctor squeezed and squeezed
at the rescued intestines
which looked depressed now, lifeless,
deflated at last. It was hard to believe
they were healthier for those rough palpitations,
though I would be willing to wager
that the middle-aged man, whoever he was,
felt differently when he woke
the morning after his mauling.

I think he felt cleaner,
for having been gutted, brutalized,
his inner parts fondled.
I bet he felt saved.

Webster was much possessed by death, he saw the skull beneath the skin…

Lesions

The Idea is the thing itself,
they flow together as a single stream of blood.
The seeping lesion on the third finger of my right hand,
made by gnawing ratlike to the quick,
releases its spent toxins, my nails are spotted
by a shortage of zinc, knuckles already growing
an arthritic sheath. They are capable of miracles.

I am made more wondrous for my rot,
perfected by the fester that is the birth of death.

Riding my bike through a culvert the day before last ,
skidding in the driving rain, my wheels thumped across
the waterlogged corpse of a rat, fur slicked in comb-streaks
by the force of the mud. It was dead before my tires divided its gut,
forcing its greyish heart out into air between long incisors,
its intestines coiling like a deposed tapeworm from its anus.

I hauled to a stop, the hem of my red slicker
gnawed by the gears, rubberized fabric stretched by metal teeth
I fought against, scraping raw my knuckles. Detached,
I stared at the corpse, spinning my philosophies.
Remains; a relic of something beyond the words.
An image, a scent, and something beyond it.

The rat was there, the rain, the rot, all existed in this town
a few miles from my house, but I cannot prove the fact of it.
I could, I did, prod its burst heart with a bark-stripped twig.
I could, I am trying to, set the moment down in words,
the knuckles on my right hand aching, the lesion
on my third finger leaving yellow traces on the board.

Sometimes, in the night, when the foxes are calling…

Masks: Revelation

I want to run through downtown Swindon cloaked
in the cured hide of a wolf or large coyote, peering
out through the ragged eye sockets,

otherwise naked, breasts,
belly, vulva bare to the elements, running hard
on calloused fingers and feet, bleeding,
dark against dark tarmac, wearing the dirt into my flesh,
embedded with knuckles of glass.

I want to run in the night in a cloud of high-yipping foxes,
teeth tearing the legs of the men fleeing bars,
arcing my legs against the silks of the women,
spreading my mark and my rank scent.

I want to hold the hard shaft
of my great-grandfather’s bone-handled knife
And know again the tang
of sharp, brown blade against hot flesh.

Such urges I have; I can barely suppress them.
Staring up at the ceiling, sexually satisfied,
made more carnal, more hungry by the edge of satisfaction,
my husband naked, breathing beside me in bed.

Outside my open window, the screaming of foxes.

I take hold of his hand.

Once, I worked for a veterinarian…

Tapetum Lucidum

The kitten was too small for anaesthetic,
its eyes had hardly opened, she was unspeakably young.
Her cornea had been abraded by her mother’s own infectious tongue,
rough with tooth-like hooked papillae, scoured her eye
in a misplaced act of gentleness transformed into brutality
by the ignorance of love.

First the cornea succumbed to clouding,
then the lens, faint colours quickly fading,
until even the tapetum lucidum, that bright tapestry,
dimmed like a tarnished mirror, relinquishing
its iridescent blue, extinguished before night.

The eye was swollen to a pendulous tuber
by the time that her owners brought her in;
a grey-green agate the size of a yew berry jutted,
tremulous, from that small skull.

I held that fevered body in one hand,
drugged with opiates, as the veterinarian lapped
the spongy orbit with the nurturing blade,
expunging the eye and most of the socket.
My finger were hooked beneath her armpits,
holding her still as she, unconscious, writhed.

The eye plopped free, stone-coloured decay
landed and split against the mirrored surgical table,
kept at all times scrupulously clean and anointed with bleach.
What followed was a scent unlike any other; sharp,
and hideously appetizing; grapes softened to brownish purple rot,
the most ancient of cheese, rising like an offering as I packed the cavity
with gauze and antibiotic cream.

I sewed shut the eyelid with my own right hand,
another pointed tongue inflicting her with life,
and left her clean and addled in the cage that I had drawn her from
to awaken there in rags and squalor, to meals, and the rattling bars.

As the deer pants…

For the Water

Black pebbles, gleaming, form the nose of the doe.
Nostril rims like slices of Greek olives,
tremulous, fluttering like wings, followed
by whiskers, black wires, they spring
from raised hillocks of nerves that side
the chestnut muzzle above her ruminating mouth.
She drips clear saliva, the earth will absorb.

I cannot see her eyes yet.

Perched in the dark on the water-gurgling
campsite toilet, the stone cubical lit with moonlight
and a remnant of stars, I have to guess at coloration.
I let flow my stream like unstaunched weeping,
the kind sprung from sorrow that hurts less than it cleans.

There must be something in my carnivorous
girl-stench that she finds appealing.
Does are rarely purely herbivorous.

I saw one in winter eating a mouse.

She held it by the pelt with the cloven blade of her hoof,
tearing out the grey fur in clumps the grey sky made invisible.
The flesh was very red, sliding into her mouth.
Things rarely meet with our ideas of them;
Ideals, on the other hand, are prone to growth.

This sleek summertime doe pushed in with her head,
nosing past the unlatched door. The moon caught
in her eyes, drowned as the mastodons must have
when they fell into Le Brea. I skirted round the edge
of them, drinking in the tear-like rivulets
that washed from the corners. She fit to her shoulders.

Her head moved towards the cleft of me,
the rock of my ages, where blood would flow.
I was frightened, for a moment, that she would feed there,
picturing the second-glimpsed heart of the mouse.

She chose the stream to slake her thirst.

This really happened.

Rabies

There is nothing like a Jersey
for personality
and good rich cream.
It flows from the teat
at the slightest persuasion,
yellow and warm,
a layer of fat at the top

of the milk rising
like all good things
as the fluid cools.
It smells of heat and clover,
sweet timothy hay
dried in the field.

Pressing your forehead
into that warm doe-flank,
at the swelled waist where the calf
formed before spilling forth
like the cork from Champaign,
you can feel her heart, mighty
and rhythmic, broken
by the occasional doglike cough.

You are vaguely worried
by the scratch on her hoof,
you can see where it burns
infected, spreading.
Jim said he trimmed
all the thorn trees in her field.
You jerk your knee, avoiding
her irritated hoof-clip.

The milk sloshes in the bucket,
the calf cries for its feed,
you carry the cheese-smelling
jug to the kitchen,
prepare the plunger
for the churn.

You send your cream-
whiskered boy down the hill
for the vet. The old man
comes in horse-drawn carriage,
a matched set of strong whites
that worry you,

they move so ghostlike,
so terribly quiet.
When he shakes your hand
you fret over the state
of your fingers,
so raw and chapped,
there is blood in the creases,
the cows and yours.

Doc Marshal hems and haws
in golden barnlight,
his downy hair
catching the motes.
He knocks his old fist
against the hollow
-sounding ribs,
listening for fluid caught
in pelt-swathed lungs.

Hums a bit, snaps
his suspenders.
‘Sounds like she’s
got something in her throat.’
The old man arcs a spume
of spent tobacco
across the hay-strewn boards.

You regret the mess
and resign yourself
to cleaning it, hating
the way your boy stares
at the frothy sputum
in what must be admiration.

You plan your talk.
The cream is in the churn,
ready for buttering,
the milk is in the pitcher,
waiting for lunch.
Jim will be home soon
and the vittles’ need fixing.

The old man strokes Bess
gentle across the throat.
‘Might be the Blackleg.’
He pries open her mouth,
green tinted teeth,
foam spittle, the scent
of gone milk.

‘Have to reach in to check it.’
He rolls up his sleeve and vanishes
to the elbow, grunting, finding nothing.
The vet cries on extraction,
a harsh mannish bark,
‘Bitch got me with her teeth.’

Wiping his hand on his shirtfront,
a thin streak of blood,
he shakes with you,
‘Well Mrs Williams,
I didn’t find anything.
It’s definitely not Blackleg.
Must be a cold. Watch her
good and keep her warm.’

‘Yes sir, we will.
You know how we need her.
She is our life.’
He nods at you, leaves
more brown on your boards,
drives off pulled
by his pair of whites.

You shiver at the sound
of dry wheels creaking,
the sound of the death-cart,
completely implacable.
You know and do not know
that you are waiting to die.

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