THE DEAD DOG IN THE FIELD / NICOLE MASON

I like to tell it like it happened in July so

there can be implications of watermelons,

fireworks.

 

In December, though, the blood on the house and snow

are peony blooms in red and white.

 

But if it’s in July, there can be an image of my grandmother

leaned up against her spade,

the handle tucked up into her body,

the silver head tucked into the soil,

the top of her lip moist,

the dead dog next to her, inert.

 

If it’s in July, there can be flies,

swarms of flies,

covering the opened up parts of my dog

so that I can’t see the insides.

 

I can have my grandmother rest

for a bit over the hole and say:

the foxglove ain’t comin up this year.

Although, there’s never been any foxglove

and all I can imagine are thick leaves

and milk oozing from its anonymous roots

to saturate the soil.

 

In December, we find her still-alive and the neighbor across

the stumped over corn field sews her bits back together.

 

If it’s in July, she can stoop down to grasp a leg,

to chuck my dog into the hole.

It can be under the willow tree,

and I can crouch on my hams to peer over the side before

my grandmother begins to throw the dirt back in.

 

In December, my father goes out at night to find the

dogs that attacked her.

When he finds them,

he shoots them and throws their

bodies on their owner’s porch.

 

If it’s in July I can feel the sun on my head.

Grandmother pats the last of the dirt with her hands

and asks me if I want some potato salad.

 

In December, my dog lives and I feed her small pieces of old pizza

while she rests on a blanket in the basement.

 

 

 

Nicole Mason received her MA in Literature at Northern Michigan University and currently teaches Composition and Creative Writing at Indiana University of South Bend. Sometimes she writes poems. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in SOFTBLOW, (b)OINK, Farther Stars Than These, and Cease, Cows.

MISS / KAMAL E. KIMBALL

The morning is silver with birdsong.
Clapboard chapel sides

thunk down in the grass
as nude pews shudder.

The priest is sick.
His coughing will curse

both houses. The rings will roll
off the knuckles that don’t exist.

Crinoline waits, a virgin
in the dress shop, untouched

by the woman’s fingers.
It wants to be cut, trembles

for scissors. There will never be
a dress handmade from the shades

of the morning for the woman,
never specked with silver

sequins like finches pipping,
she vows. A bell’s throat

won’t clang and the hands
won’t clap after the kiss, after

the giving away
everyone wants, she fears.

 

 

 

Kamal E. Kimball is a poet currently living in the Ohio River Valley. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Zetetic, Literati Magazine, Indolent Books, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal and elsewhere. She is a member of the Cincinnati DIY Writers and founder of Fresh Darlings, an online writing community. She works as a grant writer and journalist. More at kamalkimball.com 

A PHOENIX / ALICIA ROBINSON

It is hot – so hot. The sort of heat that seeps through your clothes to your skin, drips down your scalp, and makes you want to scratch, an itch that won’t stop. I wipe the back of my hand on my face and stare at the beads of sweat stuck there.

“It’s hot,” he says and takes a long drag of his smoke.

The smoke chafes my nose, my throat. I try not to cough. He said he would quit. He has said that quite a few times. I watch a bird soar through the sky, its blue fringe glints in the sun. It banks, lands on a tree on the other side of the street, pecks at the bark, gives up – flies off.

“I wish I was a bird,” I say. In my mind I mime a pair of wings. They would stir up a brisk breeze, a balm for this stale day. I would fly through the drab, dank sky; the wind in my wings would drift down, would coat the earth with hues of red and rose and gold – the shades of my soul.

He puts his hand on my thigh – a mute plea to bring me back to him. Does he wish for wings too? Wings that would take him to some place else, some place new?

“I had a bird when I was a kid,” he says. “A finch. It died.”

I stare at his face, his deep-set eyes, his thin mouth, the small sad line of his lips.

“It’s no use,” I say. He nods.

The hard lump in my throat chokes me. My eyes feel tight. I stand up.

“I love you,” I say. He starts to reach for me, stops, drops his hand, nods.

“I know,” he says.

I get in my car, drive down the street. I should stay, should pack my bags. But if I do, I might change my mind. There is a stop sign in front of me; I slam on the brakes. I can’t move, can’t drive, can’t go back. I can’t see through the tears. Why can’t love just be enough? Some birds mate for life. So why can’t I give up my wings? If I could, would they fall to earth black and burnt? Would they rise out of the ash, gold and rose and red and brand new? There is a sharp knock on my door. He stands there.

“Please?” he says.

I sob. He holds out his arms and I get out of the car. He smells of smoke and pine. We stand there, in the bare street.

“Let’s talk,” he says. I shake my head. I watch a flock of geese, a crisp black V in the gray sky.

“Just give me one more chance. I can be a bird too,” he says.

I turn to look at him. He holds out his hand.

 

 

Alicia Robinson received her B.A. in Anthropology from Oregon State University. In addition to Anthropology, she studied Archeology, Prehistory, and Creative Writing. She is currently applying for graduate school to study Biological Anthropology. Alicia lives in Oregon with her partner David, their two Siberian Huskies Nova and Whiskey, and their cat Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She is constantly working on new short stories and takes inspiration from her own life and her beautiful home in the Pacific Northwest.

ANNABELLE / R. E HENGSTERMAN

“How do I look?”
“You look fine, honey.”
“Is it fine or beautiful?”
“You look like a mom,” he said.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I’m sure.”

Lillian Ratcliff fluttered about the nursery as if a butterfly had taken possession of her body. Moving unopened diapers from shelf to shelf. She went to the crib, adjusted the mobile and cracked the window because of the faint odor of fresh paint.

“What if they don’t approve us?” She said, rearranging the stuffed animals in the crib into a neat row.

“We’ll be fine.”
“How’s our credit?

“Lil, we’ve done the best we can. Our references are solid. Our credit is sufficient. We have money in savings. The Hooper’s got their baby last year, and they don’t look near as good as us on paper. And remember Cassie Ingram, Judith Lloyd’s cousin. She got a beautiful baby boy last year, and she’s not even married.”

Lillian wore a path from the crib to the dresser. Animal silhouettes cut into the yellow wallpaper back-dropped the crib. In the corner, an oversized luxury glider, upholstered in white and wrapped in plastic.

“I don’t know,” she said, giving the room a second and third re-organization.

“Do you have the medical records?”
“Yes, dear.”
“And the tax returns?”
“Yes, dear.”
“Okay.”
“We’re good people Lil, and we will make great parents.”

Lillian nipped at the fuzz on her cashmere sweater and adjusted the hemline of her skirt as her husband drove.
“Have you thought about how our life will change? How different things will be?”
“I have,” he said, his eyes never leaving the road. “Lillian we’ve gone over this a million times. You need to relax.”
She wrenched the skin on her hands into an angry shade of red.

It was a twenty-minute drive from the house to the three-story concrete and brick building with Italian cornices. Lillian and her husband walked the granite steps leading to the elaborate, recessed entry, hands interlocked. A garden of white trumpet lilies encircled the building.

Inside the main lobby, cast stone walls met pink marble wainscoting. Centered on the coffered decorative ceiling was an enormous octagonal bronze and glass pendant light fixture.

“This place looks more like a museum,” Lillian said. He squeezed her hand.

“It will be okay,” he said as they rode the elevator.

The waiting room walls were ornamental plaster and held a dozen women who looked much the same as Lillian. An attendant offered fresh water with cucumber. They waited a sharp seven minutes.

“Dr. Gideon will see you now,” a well-proportioned blonde said.

Inside his office were two chairs, a single computer, and a centered plaque with his name.

“Good afternoon,” he said. “We have decisions to make today. Are we excited?”

Dr. Gideon looked no older than thirty, coifed hair, perfect teeth and a well-tested smile.

“Yes, we’re excited,” Lillian said, cleaving the dryness in her throat with a sip of cucumber water.

“We have our records,” the husband said as he passed their folders across the desk. Dr. Gideon took the paperwork and tapped the corners until each page aligned.

“Well,” he said. “Let’s get started.”

“Boy or girl?”

“Girl,” Lillian giggled. Her husband smiled.

“Yes, girl, perfect,” Dr. Gideon said. Typing as he spoke.

“Eyes?”
“Blue.”
“Hair?”
“Blonde.”
“Height?”
“Five foot ten.”

Dr. Gideon perched himself on the edge of his seat, “now for the nuanced traits.” He said, picking up the folder marked medical records.

Lillian shifted, matching Dr. Gideon.

“Aunt with dementia,” he said, looking toward Lillian.

To the husband, “father with cardiovascular disease, brother with colon cancer, sister with breast cancer and psychiatric disease.”

Lillian peered at her husband as Dr. Gideon set the folder on the desk and reclined.

“We can use Crispr to edit the genome of your embryo with unprecedented precision and efficiency. But we may need to make a few compromises.”

Unseen, Lillian dug her heels into the carpet. “What does that mean?”

With your deposit and financials we can either cover aesthetics or disease polymorphisms. There won’t be enough money to cover everything you want.”

There was a lengthy pause. “We can make this work, Lil. We can have a healthy baby.”

Lillian grew as her husband shrank.

“I’m not leaving my baby’s appearance up to chance,” she said. “My mother told me not to marry someone with flawed genetics. I knew better.”

Her husband was about to speak, but Dr. Gideon, sensing the divide, interjected.

“We can mix and match. Eye color, or hair and disease polymorphisms,” he said.

“See, Lil? We can do both.”

Lillian jumped up, “I’m not compromising.”

“Maybe I should give you both a minute to discuss your options,” Dr. Gideon said. Lillian’s back was to the desk, arms tight to her torso and folded.

“You know Lil… we can always have a baby the old-fashioned way. We can use the money for something else.

“Why would I ever leave my child’s genetics to chance? What would our friends and family think? We’d be the laughingstock of the neighborhood. That’s ridiculous.”

“Maybe we need some time to think, Lil. A little time. That’s all.”

Lillian charged from the office before either her husband or Dr. Gideon could respond.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for my wife’s behavior. We’ve been saving for this for almost five years.”

Dr. Gideon nodded, “I understand.”

Her husband moved toward the open door.

“Before you leave, can I ask you a question,” Dr. Gideon said.

“Yes.”

“What would you name her?”

“Annabelle.” He said.

“Beautiful,” Dr. Gideon said. “Beautiful.”

 

 

R. E Hengsterman is a writer and film photographer who deconstructs the human experience through photographic images and the written word. He is a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee, proponent of self-flagellation and a  flawed human who writes under the beautiful Carolina sky. You can see more of his work at http://www.ReHengsterman.com and find him on Twitter at @rehengsterman.

STAINED / KELLY WEBER

Across the old woman’s ceiling, the stain
spreads its puckered areola,
water hooping frayed ripples in the plaster
where something broke, leaked
in the apartment upstairs, where naked
lights shine cold-clear as through windows
cobalted with Madonna and child.
This godforsaken place.
Why doesn’t the landlord
fix the pipes, clean those drains?

 

It’s the young single mother, blonde
as fuel in a match, who tells
what she’s heard about the woman upstairs:
thirty-four. Barmaid at the green
of the local golf course.
Boyfriend. Breakup. Back pains
and stomach. A mistake.
An accident. Hadn’t told
the doctor. Something gone wrong,
spilled out, half-formed and rather
than call for help, admit on the phone,
she tried to flush it
down the drain. The half-forgotten
sleeping thing, flipped sideways,
its face a doll’s face,
its ear a doll’s ear
not quite ready to hear the world
clogged and overflowed the pipe.

 

A delicate matter for delicate people,
this is not told widely among the tenants
but the old woman sees how the stain is sponged
after the upstairs lady moves away
and she has had time to chew over
how many times she bruised her own son’s face,
the teacher who never speaks of her ex
and the secrets women keep, burning
white rings in ceilings above their heads.

 

 

 

Kelly Weber is the author of the chapbook All My Valentine’s Days Are Weird from Pseudo Poseur Press. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in several publications, including The Midwest Quarterly, Triggerfish, and Clade Song, along with such anthologies as Nebraska Poetry: A Sesquicentennial Anthology and The Flat Water Stirs: An Anthology of Emerging Nebraska Poets. She has taught composition and poetry at Wayne State College, where she received her BA of English Writing and Literature and her MSE in English Education. She is currently working toward her MFA in poetry at Colorado State University. More of her work can be found at kellymweber.com.

SHE WHISPERS TO THE VULTURES / COLIN DODD

It rained that day.

His woman was fucking phantoms

in the shadows.

Doorways opened into empty space five stories up.

He was a ghost among real animals.

His lover was rooting for the hyenas.

She could barely see him.

He embarrassed the statues with his fervor.

Dispatched from heaven, then from the fifth floor.

All his time was free.

She whispers to the vultures

that the worst is almost over for them.

 

 

 

Colin Dodds is a writer. He grew up in Massachusetts and completed his education in New York City. He is the author of several novels, including WATERSHED and The Last Bad Job, which the late Norman Mailer touted as showing “something that very few writers have; a species of inner talent that owes very little to other people.” His poetry has appeared in more than two hundred seventy publications, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Anthology. The poet and songwriter David Berman (Silver Jews, Actual Air) said of Dodds’ poetry: “These are very good poems. For moments I could even feel the old feelings when I read them.” His book-length poem That Happy Captive was named a finalist in both the Trio House Press Louise Bogan Award and the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award. And his screenplay, Refreshment, was named a semi-finalist in the 2010 American Zoetrope Contest. Colin lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and daughter. You can find more of his work at thecolindodds.com.

THE PAINTING / ROBERT HALLECK

The town was small.

The museum was small,

free, and uncrowded.

He looked at the painting

with the artist’s name

faded to nothing.

It stayed with him

all that summer

and the years that followed.

A smiling girl with a sleeping dog.

 

 

 

Robert Halleck is a retired bank president who fills his days with hospice volunteering, greyhound rescue, and poetry. He has a weakness for open mic poetry readings and autocross racing. He underwrites a yearly poetry prize at Norwich University. In the last 50 years three volumes of his poems have been published. His recent work has appeared in the San Diego Poetry Annuals, The Paterson Literary Review, The Galway Review, The Lake, and a number of other interesting places. 
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IF MOTHER GOES TO THE PENITENTIARY / ALLEN KOPP

 Daddy Earl drove slowly on the night-time street, looking for an address. When he found the one he wanted, he parked the car under a street lamp and killed the engine.

“This looks like the place,” he said. “You two wait here. This shouldn’t take long.”

“What do you think Daddy Earl does on these calls he makes?” Freda said to Julian after Daddy Earl was gone.

“How should I know?” Julian said. He was lying on his back looking upside down out the window.

“Well, I hope this doesn’t take long. It’s boring just sitting here in the dark and it’s kind of scary.”

“I’m not scared,” Julian said.

“If anybody walking along the street tries to bother us, I’ll honk the horn to attract somebody’s attention.”

“What do you think mother’s doing right now?” Julian asked.

“She’s probably sitting on the bunk in her little jail cell in her plain gray prison dress, thinking about where she stashed those jewels.”

“What jewels?”

“The jewels she stole, silly. I just know she has them hidden away in a safe place and when she gets out of jail she’ll know right where they are and go and get them. Then we’ll have to go away to Mexico or Nicaragua or someplace like that to keep the police from locking her away in jail again.”

“Daddy Earl too?” Julian asked.

“No, I think Daddy Earl will stay here,” Freda said.

“Maybe Mother and Daddy Earl will get married.”

“I don’t think so. I don’t think Daddy Earl gives mother much of a thrill. He’s nice and everything, but he’s not very good looking and he’s kind of dumb. He sleeps in his socks.”

“How do you know he sleeps in his socks?”

“Mother told me, silly. It’s to keep his feet warm. He doesn’t have good circulation, so his feet are cold all the time.”

“I sleep in my socks, too,” Julian said. “Sometimes.”

“That’s just because you’re ignorant and you don’t know any better.”

“You’re just as ignorant as I am.”

“Yes, but I’m trying to overcome my ignorance, but you’ll go through your whole life getting more ignorant all the time.”

Julian yawned and then coughed. “Do you see Daddy Earl coming?”

“It’s only been about two minutes,” Freda said. “He wouldn’t be back this soon.”

“Why did they put Mother in jail?” Julian asked.

“It was her third conviction, that’s why.”

“What’s ‘conviction’?”

“It means she was caught three times stealing jewelry and stuff. On the third time, they lock you up to try to teach you a lesson.”

“What’s the lesson?”

“I don’t know. I guess it’s not to steal anymore.”

“I heard Daddy Earl telling somebody on the phone that mother’s shoplifting is a psychological addiction,” Julian said. “She can’t keep from doing it, even if it means she’ll have to go to jail.”

“Who was Daddy Earl talking to?”

“How should I know?”

“Maybe it was a lawyer.”

“He said she’s going to end up in the penitentiary if she’s not careful.”

“It’s kind of funny to have a criminal for a mother,” Freda said. “I mean funny in an odd way, not in a laughing way.”

“Hah-hah-hah,” Julian said.

“If Mother goes to the penitentiary, I think I have a pretty good idea what will happen to us,” Freda said.

“Us?”

“Yeah, you and me, dumbbell! We’re minors. Do you think they’re going to leave us with Daddy Earl?”

“I don’t know.”

“Daddy Earl doesn’t want us for all the time. He’ll only let us stay with him until mother gets out of jail and then all bets are off.”

“All bets are off,” Julian said. “Maybe we can go live in the penitentiary with Mother.”

“Do you think they let kids stay there?”

“I don’t know why not.”

“Well, that shows how much you know! You wouldn’t want to live in the penitentiary even if you could.

“Why not?”

“They eat gruel and stale bread every meal. There are rats and cockroaches everywhere and the people roaming around there would slit your throat just for looking at them. If the guards catch you doing something you’re not supposed to do, they lock you up in solitary confinement.”

“What’s solitary confinement?”

“It’s a dark place where they lock you away from everybody else and they only give you a little sip of water and a crust of moldy bread, and that’s all you get for the whole day.”

“Do they have TV in solitary confinement?”

“Of course not, silly! What would be the point in that? You don’t have books or newspapers or music or anything. That makes the punishment worse. Then when they finally let you out, you’re so grateful to be out that you promise you won’t ever act up again.”

“I don’t think I’d like it very much,” Julian said.

“No, if Mother goes to the penitentiary, it’s off to foster care for you and me.”

“What’s foster care?”

“It means they put you in a place with strangers where they watch you all the time to make sure you’re not going to turn out to be a criminal, too. They make you scrub floors and wash dishes and go to church.”

“Why do they make you go to church?”

“Why do you think? They want to scare you into thinking you’re going to go to hell if you don’t try to be a good person.”

“I try to be a good person.”

“That’s because you’re only a small child. When you get older, you’ll get into things like gambling and drinking and chasing after women.”

“How do you know so much about it?”

“I’ve read a lot of books beyond my grade level and have watched a lot of TV. You find out about life from reading books and watching TV.”

“Like the Three Stooges?”

“No, I don’t mean like the Three Stooges. I mean real-life drama shows like detective shows and doctor shows and old movies that they show late at night.”

“Oh, I don’t like those.”

“You’ll never get past the Three Stooges phase, I’m afraid.”

The windows were starting to steam up. Freda swiped the sleeve of her coat across the glass.

“I wish he’d come on,” she said. “I want to get home.”

“Why?”

“It’s Saturday night and I’ve got a date.”

“Who with?”

“None of your business, that’s who with.”

“I’m going to tell mother!”

“Yeah, she’s in prison. Do you think she cares if I have a date?”

“She’d tell you you can’t go.”

“I’ll bet you didn’t know I had a boyfriend, did you?”

“Who cares?” Julian said. “What’s his name?”

“His name is Mickey Littlejohn, if it’s any of your business. He’s in the tenth grade, two years older than I am.”

“Is he the one with rotten teeth?”

“No, that’s Harvey Greaves. They’re nothing alike.”

“I don’t know him.”

“Mickey Littlejohn and I are going to run off and get married. We’re that much in love.”

“Mother won’t let you.”

“I don’t know how she can stop me, since she’s in prison.”

“She’ll tell Daddy Earl to stop you.”

“Did you ever notice how Daddy Earl doesn’t ever look right at us? He looks through us like we’re not even there. It’s like he’s thinking about something else all the time.”

“What’s he thinking about?”

“I don’t know. He’s a sphinx.”

“What’s a sphinx?”

“You’re too young to know.”

“I don’t care anyway.”

Freda took a comb out of her purse and began combing her hair in the dark, imagining she was seeing herself in a mirror. “Mickey’s not going to like it when he comes by to pick me up tonight and I’m not at home because I’m waiting in some old car on some old street with my little brother.”

“Daddy Earl would chase him away.”

“Daddy Earl doesn’t know anything about Mickey and that’s the way I want to keep it.”

“Why?”

“Mickey Littlejohn is the one person in the world who will keep me from having to go to foster care when Mother goes to live at the penitentiary.”

“How is he going to do that?”

“If they see I’m married and am living with Mickey in his own home with his parents, they’ll have to leave me alone. They won’t make me go to foster care because I’ll be a married woman living with my husband. It’s the law.”

“Can I come and live with you and Mickey Littlejohn?”

“Of course not, silly! You’ll have to go to foster care. A newly married woman doesn’t take her little brother along to live with her husband.”

“I don’t know why not!”

“It just isn’t done.”

“I’m not going to foster care,” Julian said.

“Oh, yes, you will! You’ll have to do what you’re told to do because you’re a minor. When you’re a minor, you don’t get to make any decisions for yourself.”

“Oh. I’ll go and live with my father, then.”

“You don’t have a father, dope!”

“Does he live in the penitentiary too?”

“Nobody knows where he is. Mother doesn’t know. He was just a brief infatuation for her.”

“I’ll put an ad in the paper and I’ll find him that way,” Julian said.

“He doesn’t want to be found, silly. That’s the way it is when you’re a man and a woman you’re not married to has a baby by you.”

“Don’t we have a grandma or an aunt or somebody that I could go live with?”

“All dead,” Freda said. “It’s foster care for you.”

“I’m not going!”

“When the time comes, they won’t ask you. They’ll pack you off no matter how much you cry and scream.”

“No, they won’t. I’ll buy a gun and kill them.”

Freda sighed deeply and knowingly. “Oh, well,” she said. “I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. Mother’s not in the penitentiary yet and maybe she won’t even have to go.”

“She needs to promise she won’t ever steal any more jewels,” Julian said.

“She should never have become a mother in the first place,” Freda said, “but these things will happen.”

“I think I see Daddy Earl coming now,” Julian said.

“No,” Freda said. “It’s only a tree moving in the wind.”

 

Allen Kopp lives in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. He has over a hundred short stories appearing in such diverse publications as The Penmen Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, A Twist of Noir, Burial Day Books, Dew on the Kudzu: A Journal of Southern Writing, Short Story America, Offbeat Christmas Story Anthology, Skive Magazine, Creaky Door Magazine, Gothic City Press: Gas Lamp, Churn Thy Butter, Wordhaus, Fictitious Magazine, Gaia’s Misfits Fantasy Anthology, Back Hair Advocate, Typehouse Magazine, Through the Gaps, Simone Press’s Selected Places Anthology, Legends: Paranormal Pursuits 2016, Literary Hatchet, and many others.

THE HALL OF THE BOLD / ROSS DESTICHE

“Goodbye, my son”

said the old bison

to his beloved calf.

“Worry not, I shall return”

He reassured him with a laugh.

 

Then with a mighty heave,

He turned to leave

For the ancient mountain road.

He was setting out in search

Of the holy bison code.

 

The sacred code of his people,

Dwelled within a mountain steeple

Somewhere far into the west

Where only the bravest

Dared make the quest.

 

“But, Papa, I’m scared!”

The young calf blared

“It’s cold out there and wet.

Can’t you stay a while longer?

Please, don’t leave just yet.”

 

But the calf’s faint wail

Had been caught by a gale,

And his words were blown far north.

So, he sadly stared at Papa

Who’d gone boldly marching forth.

 

“A humble pilgrim now am I”

Papa snorted with a sigh

As he trudged amidst the snow.

A great journey lay before him

Beyond the sunset’s glow.

 

Papa roamed across the plains

Conviction burning in his veins

As he pushed through mud and frost.

His hooves grew sore

And his mane, wind-tossed.

 

Papa struggled over crags and tail,

Ever onward, through sleet and hail.

He hiked along Sawtooth Ravine

Whose frozen lake

Caught the moon’s pale sheen.

 

Papa wore a driven fashion

Warding off a creeping passion

To simply turn around.

But with his stubborn pace

The bison’s fate was bound.

 

Step by step, Papa marched on,

Only stopping to watch the dawn.

And when, at last, he spied the peak

Of the sacred shrine

A lone tear fell from his cheek.

 

In all his life, he never believed

That this crusade could be achieved.

Yet there he was, proudly standing

At the rocky foot

Of the mountain’s landing.

 

Then Papa scaled great steps of ice

With fatigue shaking him more than twice.

Cresting the top, with aching bones

He conceded to rest

On nearby stones.

 

Papa relaxed against a heap,

Wanting desperately to fall asleep

When, all at once, the rocks came apart

Exposing a passage

To the mountain’s heart.

 

As Papa cautiously snuck inside

Jagged walls scraped his hide.

A putrid air met his nose

The source of which

He dared not suppose.

 

The heavy fall of Papa’s gait

Carried him further down cold slate

Into the murk of a solemn room

Which Papa took

For the shrine’s old tomb.

 

Great bison skulls lined the aisles

Staring at Papa with horrid smiles

This eerie display of kindred death

Made Papa tremble

With shallow breath.

 

“Wherefore comes such a burial place?”

Papa growled with a knotted face

He scanned the room with tired eyes

And was shocked to find

His long-sought-for prize.

 

Spread across an unkept altar

Lay the famous parchment psalter.

Papa approached with cautious fright

To read from the code

And unravel this sight.

 

But when Papa’s study was concluded

He realized he’d been deluded

The code he had pined for was a lie:

“All bison drawn here

Are condemned to die.”

 

“Deranged elders of an ancient clan

Years ago devised a plan

To use this mountain as their snare

And slaughter rovers

In violent prayer.”

 

While those words rolled off his tongue

A deadly trap was quickly sprung.

Hidden ropes soon grew taught

And in a flash

His legs were caught.

 

Papa started kicking and sweating

Desperately trying to escape the netting.

But, lurid blades then shot from a wall

And carved his flesh

With a razor-sharp squall.

 

Papa dangled above the floor

His body sopping with blood and gore.

He gasped for breath one final time

And was able to mutter

“Oh, son, I’m –”

 

But his lungs gave out as he cried

And soon enough Papa died.

His body grew pale and cold;

As his bones were added

To the Hall of the Bold.

 

 

Ross Destiche is a graduate of the University of MN, with a BFA in Acting. Originally from Minneapolis, he currently lives in the Washington DC area as a professional actor and poet. Ross will find inspiration for his work at the most inconvenient of times, most often just before sleep. Other published pieces can be found at Miller’s Pond, The Legendary, and BlogNostics. His professional website is rossdestiche.com.