by Ron Salutsky

Raccoons are worse this year trawling
through the backyard trash cans. I line them up
in the crosshairs, lift the barrel
and let fly at the sky as if I could
shoot a hole in its skin and let some air in
this hidebound world. You lied to me
about buck fever when you said I’d learn
to forget the nervousness. Anchor tight,
align, breathe, squeeze
, you said, but I still shiver
when I walk the fields, there’s something
I’m supposed to find but can’t, something dark
and other, something I need to kill
in order to survive, like being sober
in a drunk dream reaching for my tonsils,
trying to pull back out of my body
what I’ve just swallowed.

Today my kin jib,
their laden brows furrow a path
out there in the snow along the disputed fence line.
Their liminality questioned, they approach
each glance warily—each meaning more
than is meant, kin like stars separated
by what composes them.
We walk the fence and talk of its cant,
point to places we might repair
when warm enough to dig.
A lonely hinny brays long through shut teeth,
sign of more cold to come.

Pine shadows slip along the lake,
awaken toads and ducks’ askance glances
from the brush. The shore scattered here and there
among the leaves makes me think I’ve arrived
at the peaceful flexible line
between two worlds,
the way my shadow has a home
in the wavering water.
All I need now, I say to the sky,
is a faithful listener,
one who will serve me my death on a pyre,
dimly the water, flow dimly away.

Wind-wrangled wisteria swags
summon farm days’ long ago meander—
dirt was the only show on TV,
a whippoorwill’s call warmed us,
wave upon wave of nothing
came over the hill in the night.
Ceil the barn! that the horses might not see
the moon—they were born with star gas
in their taut bellies, the luminosity of the void
in their eyes, black pits along the sublunary hillside
searching for stalks in this dry season
preceded by dry season preceded by baskets
on baskets of dry maddening husks.

A rock wall, mossy
constancy. Who watches
over stones while they sleep?
Uneasily you tread the gravel road
in your patchwork bonnet,
into your aging, raising
dust. You are
this autumn’s
least silence, a pin oak
dumbly clinging
to long dead leaves.
Design by Lita Dudley, Kiyo Kawaguchi, and Alexa Silverman © 2014
From poetry published in Romeo Bones (Steel Toe Books, 2013), I-II featured in James Dickey Review, III-V in Sugar House Review