Two Poems, by Larry D. Thacker


I got a fish­ing license this morn­ing. It’s good
for small game besides fish–coyote, beaver,
skunks, and ground­hogs allowed year around.

A varmint is a prob­lem beast, a nui­sance, they
say, whose exter­mi­na­tion is encour­aged, an invasive
ver­min offer­ing poten­tial guilt­less plea­sure hunting.

The last time I went hunt­ing I killed a groundhog
with a .410 shot­gun, per­haps the most inefficient
way to take a one, but I want­ed a challenge.

I stalked the cow pas­ture, spy­ing the quick starts
and stops of atten­tive move­ment, the ris­ing heads,
try­ing to esti­mate the ani­mals’ sta­tions of dens

across the field, watch­ing them enter before
creep­ing a few feet clos­er, a stat­ue when one would
pop up from anoth­er back­door hole, freezing,

mov­ing again, clos­er. We danced like this for half
an hour until I was only fif­teen feet from an entry,
sit­ting cross-legged in green and brown, waiting

for the groundhog’s bore­dom to tempt it. I made
a noise. Why would any­thing be out here to hurt it?
A slow head popped up, then the tor­so half way

high­er to see bet­ter, hindquar­ters stance of curiosity,
nose tilt­ed up, I imag­ine smelling break­fast, cigarette
smoke on my breath as I exhaled part­ly and held,

offer­ing the soft squeeze and explo­sion of shot
pep­per­ing up the instant flecks of dirt and blood,
no move­ment then but the puff of dust vanishing.

I heard the whin­ing bel­ly full of babies before
pulling her out of her hole. I verged on a panic
threat­en­ing to rush me from the field with a cry

of absolute shame. But I forced myself to stand
over her body until all was final­ly qui­et, the stretched
womb grown still. Then I snapped the stock off

my shot­gun with one strike on a stone and tossed
the weapon in the hole, toed the body in over my
sur­ren­dered gun, nudged the berm of dirt over it all.

You asked for it

God should be so kind,
and God should be so cruel,
as to grant you the exact god
you think you know, the god

you believe you and oth­ers deserve,
the per­vert­ed ver­sion of justice
you day­dream about all day
while Fox News and talk radio
screams weird­ness in the background.

You would real­ize that what
you thought you desired
was actu­al­ly an unex­pect­ed hell,
strange­ly ren­dered by your own hand,

a ter­ri­ble dis­ap­point­ment on top
of the hill, after that steep climb
of anx­i­ety with your son’s hand
in yours, the altar you work on
all night ren­dered suddenly
use­less at the moment of truth,

or a sort of pur­ga­to­ry where
you are made into a rope pulled
by two ver­sions of yourself,

one the vic­tim of your wants,

the oth­er, the guilty judge.

larrythackerLar­ry D. Thacker’s poet­ry can be found in or is forth­com­ing in jour­nals and mag­a­zines such as The Still Jour­nal, The South­ern Poet­ry Anthol­o­gy: Ten­nessee, Har­poon Review, Rap­pa­han­nock Review, Sil­ver Birch Press, Delaware Poet­ry Review, AvantAppal(Achia), Sick Lit Mag­a­zine, Black Nap­kin Press, and Appalachi­an Her­itage. His sto­ries can be found in past issues of The Still Jour­nal, Dime Show Review and The Eman­ci­pa­tor.

He is the author of Moun­tain Mys­ter­ies: The Mys­tic Tra­di­tions of Appalachia, the poet­ry chap­books Voice Hunt­ing and Mem­o­ry Train, and the forth­com­ing full col­lec­tion, Drift­ing in Awe. He is now engaged full-time in his poetry/fiction MFA from West Vir­ginia Wes­leyan Col­lege. www​.lar​ry​dthack​er​.com

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