Artwork: Notre-Dame un fin d'apres-midi (A Glimpse of Notre Dame in the Late Afternoon) by Henri Matisse
Guns quiver like rabbits caught
in the moment before death.
Rabbit bodies stretch and stiffen
hard, into rifles.
My father hunted
I was never with him.
I never saw the tremor that preceded
stiffness. Slain meat stretched
lifeless, a canvas from which
a painting was removed.
No one else in my childhood
searched for meaning.
They accepted meat as
rabbits accepting winter.
My father released
meat from skins
piling shapeless forms
Black ink mixed with blood
softening paper into pulp.
Rabbits no longer had fur.
They were twisted
into monsters pink, wet and cold
from one belly my father
cut away the head.
I had pleaded for tools; a saw,
a hammer, whatever could break away bone.
Dead eyes stared back
at me, unsocketed and cold.
They seemed to ask,
"Do you crack at my skull
to find meat more edible
than walnuts? Like the squirrel's
hoard, my shell is not me."
My brother watched until
he was rabbit stiff.
At five years old
he was too young to separate rabbit
Pain crept along his fur,
a scar worse than the one
I scratched and scraped.
I played the skull as a violin.
The saw moved but refused to cut.
The music of metal and bone cried
like the rabbits cry before death.
Previously published: The Mac Guffin, Fall 1993, Schoolcraft College, 10600 Haggerty Road, Livonia, Michigan 48152
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