II. It was that close, pt. 1

I woke up to a man with a beard coated in sawdust

wetting my hands with some foul-smelling

neon purple liquid, caught in blurry happiness

over how “Half-Step Jim will help” me.

Clark and Ellie Hatfield

swing rabbits by their ears

through air so thick

It could burn a man out of his senses.


The little one is bent backwards

by the rifle slung across her branch-like body.

They carry nothing else, of course.

The bunch has too much tolerance

for the bucks two arms long.


Jim speaks at my hand with coos

and caws that make him seem submerged

under toe-height water, and his lattice

eyes flicker with a blueblack spark.

We’ve managed to stay in good spirits.

With the Hatfields, I only wave.

They only cock their heads in recognition.


Isn’t that just like them?

Their eyes set on the growing pile

of animal guts on their porch,

where Clark idles

and downs a beer

while the rabbit cooks in the sun

that makes it reek

of rotten leather tanned in pig spit.

No one’s seen them eat any of it,

Jim says as he wraps my hand in a sock.

The day’s quiet as death,

but the dogs howl at sundown.

That’s fancy code-talker speak, I say,

(is code-talker one word or two?)

but I’m just “a fancy lawyer from the city,”

so Jim dismisses me with a wave

that zips around like a fly

against the bright orange sky.


There are churches in the city.

Enough for a man to know revenge hits

like a pinwheel in the river.

So I’ll spend my days here indoors,

eyes open, chewing the bean skin

and mouthing the words let

and it

and go.

But the days conceded

when the Hatfields shot up my side of the mesa



Cottontails, wispy as dogwood?


A pat-pat knocks

a half dozen tiny kidneys

down my throat. Pads,

flush against my window,

from a coyote that reeks

of rotten leather tanned in pig spit.

I lit her up

in shaky lantern light,

and she followed me out

to the Hatfield’s porch

as if she was mine from a young pup.


Her mates sing the sun up

from where it hugs the mesa,

scattering tuneful jackdaws

over the edge of the Hatfield’s roof.

Hawks streak the sundown

with their red breasts –

my wife’s color. Something’s missing.

Rams gargle their challenge

for hill and mount. Something

that can’t be seen

from inside, where,

and I swear this,

the timber sighs and twitches

in fitful sleep.


The nature outside

seems to suck itself into Clark’s pipe,

becoming yet another memory.

My clothing snaps with static.

I wouldn’t harm a thing unless I had to.

This bitch stands a better chance dead

than living off too much tolerance.

but the Hatfield family will never know.

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