Roll on down this muddy road, the handles
guiding me like two prongs of a diving rod,
only on the slope, it’s gravity that pulls
and not water. I’m carrying serious looking junks,
wood for the fire that will burn hotter
than hell, hopefully, or at the very least,
heat the living room through the winter’s cold.
I’ve got a tuneless song on my lips and the whole
morbid weight of December on my mind, but I don’t care.
I’m just rolling this wheelbarrow, catching some kind
of a rhythm as the wheel digs in and releases, digs
in and turns up earth, marking its lone tire track
along the path I travel–drawn by something stronger,
more urgent than the presence of buried water.
Meat is meat and the block of wood,
two inches thick, is all that keeps
the knife from cleaving through the tabletop.
There’s a pig on a hook by the window
that I swear has been eyeing me since I entered,
all two hundred pounds of him split open
and still nothing cut from the edge of his glare.
If it weren’t for the hook he’d run off
madly squealing down the laneway,
past all the market stalls.
And the butcher’s boy watches me as well,
his arms buried to the elbow in guts, apron soaked
with blood and his right eye dancing in its socket.
I ask for beef and edge uneasily away
from the pig as the butcher fills a bad, ties it up
and slaps the change into my palm
with an overhand chop.
There’s something makes me wonder
as I’m walking out:
Can the butcher, with all the blood on his hands
and his smock, his arms
crossed heavily against his chest,
resist the urge to see each passing animal
as two steps away from the chopping block?
They drew her up among the tons of codfish,
a pair of glistening pearl studs at each ear.
Two clam shell halves concealed her nipples,
reminded them of dancing girls rigged out
in tassels–an obscene mockery or a tease.
From the waist up she was every woman:
your mother from a photo on a Caribbean beach;
a housewife transformed by the siren light
of evening; the fifth grade teacher who leaned
across your desk to demonstrate
a silk brassiere, her cleavage with arithmetic.
Below the waist she was scales and tail fin–
no fit place to put a reassuring palm.
They kept reaching out as if to pat a leg that wasn’t there.
They were divided over what to do with her:
Some said she should be laid to rest
in a proper grave; others, she belonged at sea.
So they settled on the latter, tipped the body
into the water and watched it fade from view.
No one noticed that pronged tail waving
while she sank, as if it knew something they did not.
They chased that three-legged sunuvabitch—
he’d lost his fourth in a trap
while prowling the pen for sheep—
all the way to Turk’s Gut, Brigus,
blood and tracks
marking the direction of his flight.
The loss of blood never tamed him.
His eyes were fire and brimstone,
his coat dark as the devil,
and that one stump
weaving in the air like a hand
He reached the edge of the cliff,
might have sprung
bat wings and flown down over the ocean
but for the bullet that pierced his chest,
smoke from the hunter’s gun rising,
an angel of god into the night.
An audience of stalled cars scans the scene:
a cat, inspired by collision to dance a jig,
is showered in applause of pigeons’ wings
as coils of blood unwind in cords that jerk
his puppet limbs—he writhes and up
into the air propels his splintered frame
then shivers in mid-flight and drops,
is reeled into the sky again.
The drivers, blind to deft performance,
blare their horns and rev and wait
while passenger children look askance
at gulls alighting near the cat
now spent on a garden walkway. Quiet please.
A rose bush drones with eulogizing bees.
I’ve just posted my Independent review of Sara Tilley’s debut novel, Skin Room. Click here to read it or here to read “Wheelbarrow,” a poem from my first collection.
We’ve set up a blog for Riddle Fence, by the way. It’s still nascent at this point but we hope to eventually fill it with all manner of wonderful materials to supplement the printed magazine. You can find it at riddlefence.wordpress.com
Here’s the promised call:
Riddle Fence, a St. John’s, Newfoundland-based journal of arts & culture, is looking to fill its second issue with nothing short of literary genius—though we’ll settle for the merely exemplary. Payment? How mercenary of you to ask. We pay $30 a page for prose and poetry.
We are currently considering submissions of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. Send us your best and keep the rest for yourselves. Please send no more than 3-4 poems or 1 piece of prose, maximum 5000 words in length.
What are we looking for? What is anyone looking for: brilliance, innovation, that certain je ne sais quoi de sage-like insight that will blow away the doldrums and give our lives greater meaning.
The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2008.
We accept submissions by snail mail (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope):
PO Box 7092
St. John’s, NL
or by email (please send as an attachment in MS Word or Rich Text Format):
Okay, admittedly, that’s a bit misleading. This isn’t a call for submissions to Riddle Fence. But I’ll tell you what: as soon as we have a PO Box (tomorrow afternoon, I promise), we will be making a call for issue 2. Patience, my darlings, patience.