Poetry and Poetics
The heart is the size of a child’s fist.
It is a doe’s heart, and it is not beating.
It is a mute heart. Which means her son
has a fist the size of a doe’s heart.
And beyond her husband’s shoulder—
beyond where he is kneeling by the deer
he dragged up from the bottomlands—
the dusk sun has been stabbed
with a hunting knife and is bleeding
amid the tupelos and willows. And once
in a dream the oxbow lake beyond
their cabin was transformed to the bright colors
of a coral snake, and that snake was either
the living flesh or the discarded skin.
Sometimes when her son’s asthma strikes,
his chest heaves and his mouth opens
then closes, opens then closes, like a catfish
dragged from the lake and left thrashing
on the alluvial shore. Earlier she heard
the rifle exploding from the swamp.
One. Two. Three. Now her husband
wipes the bloody knife against his jeans
then stands. Their son has come out
of the house and walks down to his father.
He steps around the doe with its drooped head
and its exposed chest and belly. The evening
is so warm she almost cannot breathe. And the lake
is shimmering and burning beyond them.
© by Doug Ramspeck
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