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Thursday, November 27, 2008


by Thomas D. Reynolds

My ancestors were hunters,
Walking wooded paths at dusk.

In lean times their eyes turned to sky,
at squirrels leaping from weeping willow branches.

Catfish tested their bobbers atop the Buffalo River,
and across the fields stared glassy-eyed from stringers.

Hogs were slaughtered just beyond flower beds,
and amidst carnage, people gossiped about weddings.

So when my brother the hunter brought venison steaks
to be cooked with turkey and ham on Thanksgiving Day,

That was only fitting.
Still a few of us leaned over as they sizzled on the stove,

detecting wildness unloosed into the kitchen--
rain dripping from pines and dried leaf piles,

the biting briskness of the first autumn snow,
dedge smoke drifting in from a distant line shack.

My brother recounted the hunt in western Missouri,
how the doe trailed off for miles after she was shot,

finally falling beside a stand of scrub oak.
My brother and the others immediately set to with knives,

first dragging her onto a sheet of new fallen snow,
then slicing her from end to end and removing the heart.

Wind beat against a loose pane in the kitchen window,
and no one even grimaced when her head was removed.

How soon even the skittish settled into old ways!
The wood in the stove spat sparks onto rugs.

My uncle and a few of the boys stood outside the shed,
hurling knives into dirt and judging the depth.

The two youngest began running through rooms,
with the smallest one destined to be shot and quartered.

Deer Boy maintained a step or two until he was cornered,
and all of us smiled to see him die so gracefully.

My aunt handed me a plate of newly thawed venison,
and after laying them in the pan, I stared at my hands.

Dark blood coursed down small rivulets,
While echoes of night woods encircled me.

Thomas D. Reynolds received an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University, currently teaches at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, Flint Hills Review, The MacGuffin, The Cape Rock, The Pedestal Magazine, Eclectica, Strange Horizons, Combat, 3rd Muse Poetry Journal, and Ash Canyon Review.