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Brian Brodeur



The Friesians are calving again.  It is that season
of awaiting the difficult births.  His father calls out
for Thomas to fetch the jack and tooling iron:
tendrils of flesh dangle from her hinds as the first
hoof kicks through.  If it is male, it will be sold for slaughter.
If female, stolen away—dragged if necessary
by the legs—and locked with the others
in the wailing pen.  For now, at least, there is one hoof
entering or leaving: either one is right.  His father
jamming his hand in the throttled womb
to heave this bucking, usable thing into existence
before it slaps headfirst onto the concrete.
There is always, like this, the miracle.  Then there is after.jj 
The Blind Hunter           
                News Herald, Woodhaven, NY, December 14, 2003jj 
I’ve seen him Sundays stalking
the reservoir, out for the day (or night, it doesn’t matter)
negotiating castellated ridges, blue mantlesj 
of pine.  Last week, the crack of his Winchester
scared a tree of mourning doves half-crazy,
and I went down to see if the old man was all right.j 
From the folds of brush, he stumbled
into the light, a whitetail fawn draped over his shoulder.
Deep down he must know the whole thing’s foolish:
chasing some whim could drive him off a cliff.
But what else is there for him?  He has no kids, buried
his wife last year.  I think of them togetherj 
lumbering through high grasses: her polished rifle
glinting, his dog let loose, waving their hands at me
like a couple drowning.  They had a system:j 
she’d tap his knee once when the deer came close, twice
when he was pointed in the right direction, sliding
her finger in circles across his thighj 
to two or three o’clock, then tap three times
when the deer stepped into range, four times to shoot.
He must’ve memorized the sound
of boots crackling in the brush.  (I’m sure he knows
the smaller, sharper crackling of the deer.)  Some days
I follow his trail to see what he does out there, how he’ll fare
in the endless mesh of ferns, the early ice,
trudging up the hillock through the leaves.
And as we breathe the same cold windj 
blown off the reservoir, it’s as if I’m waiting for him
to disappear into the sunken goldenrod.
Waiting for him to duck down in some blindj 
only he knows exists, to turn and wave
or pull the trigger when he feels—who knows?—
his wife’s hand tap four times against his thigh.jj j 
Not that they flourish
in hoarfrost, or flare up, bract
to bud, from blacktop
cracks ( I know
none will keep), but that each
petal glisters without
meaning to, spreads its spiny
roots through chaff, unfurls
in cold clusters, tussocks
shaking, feeds
on ditch water, the sweet
decay found there.
j           -from Other Latitudes