Two Poems, by Larry D. Thacker

License

I got a fish­ing license this morn­ing. It’s good
for small game besides fish–coyote, beaver,
skunks, and ground­hogs allowed year around.

A varmint is a prob­lem beast, a nui­sance, they
say, whose exter­mi­na­tion is encour­aged, an inva­sive
ver­min offer­ing poten­tial guilt­less plea­sure hunt­ing.

The last time I went hunt­ing I killed a ground­hog
with a .410 shot­gun, per­haps the most inef­fi­cient
way to take a one, but I want­ed a chal­lenge.

I stalked the cow pas­ture, spy­ing the quick starts
and stops of atten­tive move­ment, the ris­ing heads,
try­ing to esti­mate the ani­mals’ sta­tions of dens

across the field, watch­ing them enter before
creep­ing a few feet clos­er, a stat­ue when one would
pop up from anoth­er back­door hole, freez­ing,

mov­ing again, clos­er. We danced like this for half
an hour until I was only fif­teen feet from an entry,
sit­ting cross-legged in green and brown, wait­ing

for the groundhog’s bore­dom to tempt it. I made
a noise. Why would any­thing be out here to hurt it?
A slow head popped up, then the tor­so half way

high­er to see bet­ter, hindquar­ters stance of curios­i­ty,
nose tilt­ed up, I imag­ine smelling break­fast, cig­a­rette
smoke on my breath as I exhaled part­ly and held,

offer­ing the soft squeeze and explo­sion of shot
pep­per­ing up the instant flecks of dirt and blood,
no move­ment then but the puff of dust van­ish­ing.

I heard the whin­ing bel­ly full of babies before
pulling her out of her hole. I verged on a pan­ic
threat­en­ing to rush me from the field with a cry

of absolute shame. But I forced myself to stand
over her body until all was final­ly qui­et, the stretched
womb grown still. Then I snapped the stock off

my shot­gun with one strike on a stone and tossed
the weapon in the hole, toed the body in over my
sur­ren­dered gun, nudged the berm of dirt over it all.

You asked for it

God should be so kind,
and God should be so cru­el,
as to grant you the exact god
you think you know, the god

you believe you and oth­ers deserve,
the per­vert­ed ver­sion of jus­tice
you day­dream about all day
while Fox News and talk radio
screams weird­ness in the back­ground.

You would real­ize that what
you thought you desired
was actu­al­ly an unex­pect­ed hell,
strange­ly ren­dered by your own hand,

a ter­ri­ble dis­ap­point­ment on top
of the hill, after that steep climb
of anx­i­ety with your son’s hand
in yours, the altar you work on
all night ren­dered sud­den­ly
use­less at the moment of truth,

or a sort of pur­ga­to­ry where
you are made into a rope pulled
by two ver­sions of your­self,

one the vic­tim of your wants,

the oth­er, the guilty judge.

larrythackerLar­ry D. Thacker’s poet­ry can be found in or is forth­com­ing in jour­nals and mag­a­zines such as The Still Jour­nal, The South­ern Poet­ry Anthol­o­gy: Ten­nessee, Har­poon Review, Rap­pa­han­nock Review, Sil­ver Birch Press, Delaware Poet­ry Review, AvantAppal(Achia), Sick Lit Mag­a­zine, Black Nap­kin Press, and Appalachi­an Her­itage. His sto­ries can be found in past issues of The Still Jour­nal, Dime Show Review and The Eman­ci­pa­tor.

He is the author of Moun­tain Mys­ter­ies: The Mys­tic Tra­di­tions of Appalachia, the poet­ry chap­books Voice Hunt­ing and Mem­o­ry Train, and the forth­com­ing full col­lec­tion, Drift­ing in Awe. He is now engaged full-time in his poetry/fiction MFA from West Vir­ginia Wes­leyan Col­lege. www​.lar​ry​dthack​er​.com

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