Elegy
The doe skull gleams with rain,
and my father, in his blue flannel shirt, walks
with his brother behind the shed, talking about the coyotes
that come down from the blue hills
and then disappear with the night,
how these rangy dogs are like them: running from home
and never staying together or returning.
The doe’s broken antler and crumbling
eye sockets remind my father of the country of lost men,
where he imagines how his brother died,
alone in his armchair, feet on his bearskin rug, on his ranch,
where his dead wife and son’s horses ran startled within the fences.
How the heart stopping is the form loss takes
in the gut, a small lumberjack chopping away at ribs,
clearing away parts of organs. How my father
has been chopping into trees, moving his wheelbarrow
filled with stones and old roots back and forth, the front
wheel creaking the way the body reminds, reminds
about ordinary pain we grow used to, reminds
him that maybe once in the rain time will tick backward
to the night he sat with his brother in the basement,
his brother’s back covered with belt marks,
the singes of cigarettes, when the beaten little boy
said, either he will kill me, or I will kill him. But then,
he started to cry, my father’s hand still on his slight proud
back, and this little boy said one day he’d never come back,
he’d hide in the hills with the coyotes and bears,
he lay down with horses, who’d flick over his back
with their sorrel tails, he’d open up under an open sky,
he’d find someone wild to love, he’d have his own little boy,
and he’d open this boy’s hands tenderly in a stream,
let him feel silver minnows slip between his fingers,
that quick-finned light they’d hold together so briefly—
my father who then pressed his cheek to this bruised spine,
let his lips taste the light hidden there.
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