At 16, I picture Mother Nature with fangs and cruel eyes.
Like my faith, Grace has gone mad, her pups all dead.
Rabidly she fled sunlight and water into crawlspace.
In fits the beagle gnaws the dark, chews the floors
beneath our house. Her growls and seizures are bad jazz:
screeching and choking in the same breath.
She’ll start to run ‘fore long, my father warns.
We have to stop her are his words that keep
me from running too, that pull from me a cruelty
posing as courage, making me like her
a dangerous child of nature.
My father perches atop the east Porch, I the west.
From under one of them she will run.
Our shotguns wait, my barrel aimed at whatever
beauty remains: a butterfly dying in the yard.
I dread how this time will change the future,
how in the end a madman may growl in the mirror,
how at any moment a pet I once spoiled in my lap
may come out staggering, drooling from the mouth
that now would tear her best friend apart.
From under the west porch she runs
in a wild, zagged line, her tail down, jaws
chewing both sky and tongue as if to swallow
all life in her path. This beast has no human master.
I pan the gun barrel like a camera. Ready? I ask my nerves.
It is I who must endure the world now─Aim!─
I who must quickly force my way through the suddenly
shaking ground to the slowing of time
when danger opens a window to its heart,
when I pull back the hammer, my eyes pouring the water
she fears, and the barrel sight narrows to fate.
Robert S. King lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. His poems have appeared in hundreds of magazines, including California Quarterly, Kenyon Review, Midwest Quarterly, Negative Capability, Southern Poetry Review, and Writers’ Forum. He has published three chapbooks — When Stars Fall Down as Snow, Garland Press 1976; Dream of the Electric Eel, Wolfsong Publications 1982; and The Traveller’s Tale, Whistle Press 1998) and two full‐length collections, The Hunted River and The Gravedigger’s Roots, both from Shared Roads Press, 2009. He recently stepped down as Director of FutureCycle Press in order to devote more time to his own writing. He continues to serve the press as Poetry Co‐Editor.
Photo by Tristan Bowersox.
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