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.
Larry 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.larrydthacker.com