Issue #2: for my hometown, William James

The Season of the Clean Kill
for my hometown

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Trees bow their heads under the weight of snow
like church elders steeped in prayer, their heavy

limbs aching with the sky’s burden. Wind
carves deep gashes in the crust with its icy

knives; with each slice, the forest moans,
cries out like a penitent sinner brought low

before the altar. The sun still hides her face,
not yet ready to shine down her countenance

upon us. We gather in the field, rifles slung
across our backs. Ready to harvest December’s

winter bounty – the stag, stamping hot breath
from flared nostrils, antlers silhouetting a city

skyline against dark clouds; the doe, eyes
twin pools of onyx, unblinking, white flag

waving fearlessly at her throat. We have
paid the state a day’s wage for this reaping,

have spread the salt block in preparation
& shined the power of a million flames

into the fields to illuminate our prey. Nature
must bend to our desires. It is the season of

the clean kill. The meat-gun barking
its dry cough of lead. My grandfather,

the family’s mightiest hunter, pressing
his eye to the scope, pink tip of tongue

peeking through his lips in concentration.
The sharp crack of thunder, the bullet

piercing supersonic, the dull thump
as flesh drops heavy into a bed of

damp leaves. A red web of death
turning pristine snow into a fatal slush.

———-

William James

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