after the stillbirth, the pioneer wife dresses a rabbit
gather the ruching of skin around the anklebones
and tug with a mother's tough love until its splits,
then separate the feet – remove and raise the left
hind one, still bloody, to your lips for luck
that fur so soft
the muscle beneath
slick and smooth
as the monthly blood buried
behind the cabin
peel back until you approach the head then lop it with a knife
before you draw the blade from the gullet to the pelvis
and usher the jeweled innards straight into the boiling kettle
those velvet ears twitching
with stories whispered
in the underbrush
and echoed along the walls
in lost warrens
hang the skin to dry, to keep the hairs in place
for winter – butcher the legs, the breast, the heart
still pulsing with the hunt – adorn the kettle with
richness – add the lard – dispose of what remains
buried behind the cabin
a mother's tough love
still bloody extracted jewel –
a lost, unfinished story
do not imagine each small beast as living
but merely as a thing not meant to know
this world, this land, all skeleton and sacrifice –
embrace the muscle, the bone, and the breaking
the skin of your anklebones
as you draw your hand from my gullet
to my pelvis –
the richness the hunt
The Pioneer Wife Sees the Doctor
He comes, smelling of death and moonshine,
his overcoat smeared with stains. I flinch
as his hands probe glands beneath my ears,
my armpits. I bite on a stick as he prepares
to cut me, to collect my blood, to examine it
in the dull, greased-paper light. The blade
he draws is sharp, but not frightening. At least
it is not leeches, the inching clots that splattered
our skin through every river we crossed in coming.
For months after, I dreamed them plopping from
my mouth, from behind my eyes, unable to shake
their gelatinous trace, their vicious slime.
He packs, offers remedies -a bag of insects
to hang around my neck, replenish as they buzz
to husks. One orange blur on the horizon replaces
another. I brew pumpkin seeds to calm my limbs
from fevered flailing. Still the fields call at dawn,
then the children, their raw need another ache.
The Pioneer Wife Writes Her Sister Back East
I watch the sun paint patterns,
some shifting, long, while others
shadow thin and fast, strands drawn
across the dark underbrush. Who
would guess, alone with my need,
with all this longing, that I would love
this place, this brutal fist of wilderness?
I am different now, aged and brittle
from labor. My boots stomp through
fragile crust to settle into what is solid
and true. The reverend says that God
moves us in directions we never meant
to go because He sets our compasses
toward heaven. What a narrow aperture
between fate and faith, between
the locked door and the open gate,
some chasms echoing deep regret,
some ringing wild and glowing like
cathedral aisles full of fire.
Some Dark Hunger
We try to capture the day
in a kiss, my mouth a feather bed
to cradle it, yours curved to fruit
to sweeten the deal, some soft blues
moan trembling in our very bones,
but we cannot hold back the dark.
Throw wide the curtains.
We will cut the air like pigeons
with our singing and the night
will be nothing like a vacuum-
it will be filled with music. Between
the notes, the milk of stars runs down
our collarbones, pooling at our feet.
Trampling Out the Vintage
Crush the skin to liberate its contents-
each removal holds small harvests.
Bare your soles at the edge of red,
contact essential to maintain balance.
Depend on the power of wild abandon,
the effort in the trampling.
Shear the tissue, skin, and pulp,
contact essential to produce flavor.
Extract each delicate ion,
each a common case of darkness.
Leave the remnants to failure or completion;
either way, some sugar remains.