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"I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat."
— Elizabeth Bishop

Five yards ahead, the road and woods dissolve
into a fiction where the elements reverse:
water is to be breathed, and air
slips in cold rivulets along the ground.
Dampness is all, and silence, under which
the allegretto elegies of streams are sung.
Along one stream,
a hunter tipped his butcherings:
dismembered hooves tread hidden sky;
a doe's head, spancelled by folds of ruined
hide, stretches clamped jaws toward
the rushing past. Another head, arranged
upon a hummock of sodden grass, shows
by black absence where
the antlers once exulted.

There is no rainbow here, nor victory:
only flensed vertebrae and ribs and the long-
evaporated memory of green
high hills and leaping sun.
But the crows will come, and mice,
and chickadees pecking for bits of fat;
in spring, the vultures and beetles.
Water and hunger will work a slower
mercy here, until the clenched ribs
whiten and fall open
and fill again with grace.

Previously published in The Neovictorian/Cochlea.

      — Kathleen Carbone