This wasn’t the first challenge. I should have known
better than to scold you for brandishing the B-B gun. You’d
skinned the chipmunk, nailed the body to wood scrap,
drowned the coat in salt to preserve it, left it
leaning against the edge of my bed. We’ll kill anything
that eats the basil. Nate shot himself in the foot or
the elbow, a ricochet that bunched his skin
into an ugly ruffle. I named the duck that couldn’t walk,
carried him everywhere. You warned the ones with names
always die first. I couldn’t figure out how to make the job
less precious: grasping the new-born turkeys one at a time—
an hour to empty a single coop. The other hands
would scoop them into a fluttering heap. But why not dote
on the markings of each feather, that swollen split pea of an eye?
I killed the first by accident, its leg mashed beneath
the metal water bowl. They were moths frenetic with light,
wings all beating toward something,
a dreadful circus parade of knobbed feet and open
mouths. Someone picked up the chicken by the foot, I remember
the carcass hanging. Bigger than the baby turkeys, a dead full-bodied
thing. This was before you learned how to cleave
an animal’s body in two. Before you said you
knew the best way to kill them. I’m sure they didn’t mean to leave it
in the bucket, didn’t intend for the flies
or the stink. At first we thought
the tomatoes had soured, but then its odor turned
like the summer the mouse died inside the wall
and we had to wait the stench out. So I was the one to dispose of it,
not because I was the least squeamish, but because
I was the most afraid.
*Illustration by Catherine Villalonga.
Lisa Buckton grew up along the Hudson River and holds an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK Magazine, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Writer’s Chronicle, Grist Journal, and elsewhere, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and received an honorable mention in the 2018 AWP Intro Journals Project. She lives in Vermont, where she works as a librarian and serves as Senior Poetry Editor for 3Elements Literary Review. Find her online at lisabuckton.com.
Lisa wants you to contribute to The Okra Project which dedicated $15,000 to create the Nina Pop Mental Health Recovery Fund and the Tony McDade Mental Health Recovery Fund. They are asking the community to match their commitment by donating, as you are able, monetary support to sustain this work or donate one of your scheduled sessions with your Black male/female therapist. Visit www.theokraproject.com.