Does she kill the old bulls
with that gun? Great slow animals,
white heavy shoulders.
I’d never seen the whole everything
of a rifle
so close before. I never asked
why that woman took the corpse
of our dog. Mutt-mud bloodline,
dust caked into its cracked feet,
it followed us kids everywhere.
Her rifle made summer
stand still, up to its knees
in the lake and too chicken
to go any farther. Kickback thrash
but her shoulder didn’t move.
She was that kind of woman.
Rode her bulls down the road,
thighs straddled the massive neck.
She had three, one after another;
all perfect, snowy. She would ride
straight into the lake
from the far side. Us on the rocks:
bruised shins, tanned arms, someone
one breath away from a cruelty
to someone else. We had to pour salt
all over ourselves, plucked off leeches
before heading home. Black
threads, alive-and-not. Salt burned
under our nails like snow.
Sun-bleached shallows so cold,
throat fed by North Mountain runoff.
Momma warned us there was no
bottom in the middle, too deep
to mean anything. I liked it best
when it rained. Underwater to my nose
and the sky fell like so many thorns
I was alone that day—
I was the one to catch her.
The bull’s wide head pressed to her
naked chest, her hands stroked its long ears,
must have felt the living
velvet. I know each bull
is just one same wildness
in love with that woman. I think she
hit our dog on purpose, hauling
a season of potatoes in her ancient truck.
She whispered to Momma. Rifle
sound like the sky got knocked over
and cracked clean
in half. Before and after. I watched
her sling the body into the truck-bed.
We had nothing to bury in dog’s grave.
said Momma. Let me get the salt.
Amy Parkes is a queer Nova Scotia poet living with mental illness. Parkes holds an English BAH from Acadia and a poetry MFA from UNC Greensboro. Her poetry appears in the Bacopa Literary Review and Barrelhouse Magazine, among others. Other poems are forthcoming with the North Carolina Literary Review and Grist Journal, both as prize finalists. Parkes' first piece of creative nonfiction appears in Studies in Canadian Literature.
the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan