Tonight the moon smells like the forehead
of an idiot savant
they dragged from a car wreck last week
on the road to Monticello.
No wind. No flock.
But buck-blind slug-crack.
The house they’re leveling by the power plant:
a woman who starved herself
kept her father there
four winters, his trashed lung
filling her sleep with a blue whir.
Once, after his burial, I saw her in the yard
crouched over the frozen carcass of a groundhog
that had opened its gut
on the deer fence, stumbled a few yards,
and sprawled out, bewildered,
by the garbage lid.
I couldn’t hear what she was saying,
and still can’t,
but when she rose to turn back I watched her
bend down again
and crush her cigarette into the bushy scarab
of a face, slowly, twice in each eye.
It was February. Bucks
hung from an oak.
And because I think there’s no harm
I think maybe that’s what poverty
meant to her:
the body’s going back. The scar
and the rush.
The going back so quietly the hour
will never know how innocent
you think you are.
—from Rattle #32, Winter 2009