by Joshua Morgan Folmar
without grace, and standing in the killing
fields, my father gingerly retrieved
each bird from the muck of broken cattails.
I looked up from the scorched amber to see
a blood sun, pierced and staining his palm.
When he reached down to me, with his free hand
that swallowed mine, & held his grandfather’s
shotgun with the other, he whispered
in my ear this meaning of life,
passing the limp body—its beady eyes &
caked feathers, ripped through with birdshot—
onto me. I buried them all in the black
mass inside the pouch of his hunting vest:
a thurible of bodies, still
warm and sulfuric.
Before dawn, as we made our way to
the meadow, I slept between his arms
& the steering column. The three-wheeler
bumped along the rutted trail, and I dreamt
of God and Sunday School lessons—
Noah was there, letting each bird loose from the ark, raven & dove; as was the Lord,
revealing himself in the manifestation of a dove, as John baptized His Son;
and there was my mother, bleeding out at the edge of the meadow: shot through the chest,
doe-eyed, & transfigured.
Before the sun set, I would dig each bird
out from that pouch, one by one, throwing them
along the trail—hoping my father had
not killed God—so the doves could fly
away, or at least show us the way back.