The Deerslayer

The Deerslayer
by Eileen Rush
He hunts
“whitetail and split-tail,” a friend boasted.
(I didn’t know this meant deer and women)
He is the kind of charming Southerner who kills
something every day, pours stories of shooting beasts,
clubbing fish, and villages of sea-hauled shrimp
popping and clicking like hailstones. Long ago
we would have begged him to slay our Grendels,
to find unicorns, or to show mercy to our daughters.
Among oak leaves outside his house, a coachwhip
snake wrinkled by my ankles. When I tried to make
it stay it struck, angry, even as feathers and bones
broke down in its hot slender stomach. Even then,
I was hunted.
Tender breasts
of mourning doves wrapped in bacon,
covered in the white sweetness of cream
cheese, the verdant heat of jalapenos. I savored
the small cut, a morsel. Below the cast iron
skillet’s slurp I heard my meal’s mate calling
woo-ooo-oo-oo, a sonnet for the bosom of his
now-marinated ladylove. Beneath seasoning
is the hard struggle of flying, a feast of cracked
brown corn husks, of sunflowers bent like studious
monks, offerings burned by the sun, the sky brimming
with bodies in pairs traveling thousands of miles
to eat, make love and create. I liked the taste.
I cooed.
Legless, spineless
beings spawned legends and consequently
were ground or sliced into lover’s potions
and peddled to attract to repel. Coincidence?
The Greeks called him Amphisbaena, but the South
knew and feared the hoop snake —
a creature that grabs hold of his own tail to give chase,
tumbling faster than prey can run. The end
and the beginning meet at the mouth, a tender pain,
while drunken scenes roll by until the circle unravels,
a strike is made, a prize skewered and in a bow
string’s slap or a long gun’s crack frenzied
air splits and crashes in on itself like slick
flesh parted.
Can you blame
the deer, the fish, the calling dove for seeking,
as we all are seeking, nourishment in this life
when they wander before the scope of a hunter
and find their senses ringing, blood cooling?
Love and sex should never feel like death. I have
heard that some hunters give thanks after a kill.
He did not. He woke me with a rough hand
shaking my shoulder, the morning blue with fog.
“I gotta be in a deer stand in an hour,” he said,
Then asked me to leave. Still drunk, my fingers
fumbled on the buttons of my shirt. He did not tell me
the rules of this game but I felt somehow
I had lost.
Life ended
at his hands and he seemed to enjoy it. I
learned, as all beasts learn, there is revenge
in living the length of time between missing
the arrow — a hammering heart, fleet hooves,
strong wings — and resting, wet grass, new seeds
soft heart. “He’ll never see this Golden Hind again,”
I laughed with friends, but I meant that I can wait
for someone who knows that for every life ending
in the woods there are many more who go on,
facing forward and backwards – Go, said the Greeks,
bainein – we heard, and were clever or lucky enough to find
Our escape.

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