David K Wheeler

Slaughter Season

 

Before August was over, and the air remained a cotton fog in the lungs of all the school
chums back on grounds bleached by the heat that came early and stayed late,

we single-filed back through the wide stairwells and blue gymnasium that doubled as
the house of God on weekends when metal lockers weren’t slamming shut

and into students, winding around the hallways toward biology class, or Bible—it’s hard
to remember which, with the windows open and the room not getting cool;

the sweltering heat only made it that much harder to pay attention to whatever we
studied; we heard squeals across the street from animals they raised

at the subsistence ranch—pigs, cows, emus, and dogs at differing times over the
years and seasons—but, that humid afternoon kill was definitely a pig

because we later found the bloody stump of its neck and head, skinless and chewed, on
the thirty-five yard line of the overgrown football field behind the school

where the ranch hound took it like she’d found a new toy that tasted like true hide
and real blood instead of the rubber guts she was given on her birthday;

and, the real blood was on her snout and paws and in the yard and across the
parking lot, but also in the air, a thick stain on every breath that smelt like flesh

had come unpackaged and fissured from muscle, bone, tissues, and every sinew tied
together into the fabric and skin that manages to hold every piece together, in,

until one bullet and steel meat hooks pull the sheets apart to drain the blood and expose
the vital organs to elements like Idaho sky and quiet breezes from the south

that carried the fumes into the classroom where a girl cried while Mr. Syth tried to pry
us from the windows so as to discuss dissection technique—or was it sacrifice?

 
“Slaughter Season” is reprinted from Contingency Plans (T.S. Poetry Press)

 

David K Wheeler is the author of Contingency Plans, which was a finalist for the 2011 Booksellers Choice Award sponsored by Melville House. He has contributed writing to The Morning News, Burnside Writers Collective, and The High Calling, and received his Bachelor of Arts from Western Washington University. He now lives in Seattle.

 


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