The old man, in his day, well let’s just say
He took a lot of meat without a license.
That he was arrogant, well that just goes
Without saying, so we don’t, but see,
He had a reason. He thought that a man
Who owned his land shouldn’t have to pay to
Hunt. Not the Government, especially.
So though he never, as some poachers do,
Hunted in the spring or summer, killing
Does with fawns out of sheer depravity
Or desperation or both (sometimes it’s hard
To tell the difference, though There Are Roughly
Zones). He neverit was a point of honor
Hunted legallynot antelope
Nor deer nor elk. He never had a fishing
License either, for that matter, never.
No harm, really, except his son, before
He was old enough, himself, to learn to poach,
Was terrified each time the old man brought
A gutted carcass home and strung it up
In the tool shed with a pulley hooked to a stave
That cross-pierced slits behind Achilles tendons,
And put a Master padlock on the door,
And told his son the word was mum in case
The game warden came to snoop around. Remember,
The son was very young and he still thought
That those who broke the law were put in jail,
That the whole family could go to jail
Since they knew, and would not tell, what hung
In the tool shed, behind the padlocked door.
It isn’t imagery, the painterly,
I’m after here, but stale fear in a boy
Each time he opens the tool shed door, even
In spring or summer when there’s no meat hung,
The smell of blood and the prey’s adrenaline,
Which triggers in the boy a predatory
Inability to turn and run.
James Galvin is the author of two prose books and seven books of poetry, most recently As Is (Copper Canyon). He teaches at the University of Iowa, and has some land and horses in Wyoming, where he lives part of every year.