Back to Issue Thirty-Three

Poet loves hunter though she’ll eat no meat


No way to hear the word merganser
and not think about my father
who spoke it so tenderly, by which
I mean precisely, just the way
he schooled his retriever to hold
the bird itself—in a soft mouth—to prevent
the dog’s developing a taste for flesh.
Once he gave me the wing of a partridge,
bit of gristle at the hinge still tinged
with dried blood, and when I palmed
that silken thing and pressed its knob
of cartilage, it opened—splay
of dun-colored feathers—as if to fly.
And somewhere in memory, too, I hold
rabbit’s foot after rabbit’s foot (though
my father did not like to hunt them,
said when shot they cried like babies,
made him sad), not the garish
dime-store kind my friends hung
from their backpacks by a link
of chain, dyed cherry red or shocking
pink, just the soft pale fur, no copper
cap to hide the bone, which jutted
sharp right where it had been broken
off. That’s not the part I rubbed
between my finger and my thumb
but might have tongued it once—
best way to know a thing’s to taste it.


Melissa Crowe is the author of Dear Terror, Dear Splendor (University of Wisconsin Press, 2019), and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Baltimore Review, Crab Orchard Review, POETRY, Seneca Review, and Tupelo Quarterly, among other journals. She’s editor of Beloit Poetry Journal and coordinates the MFA program in creative writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.


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