a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
You got anything to cut fishing line?
Dangling head-down by its tail, the chipmunk.
immaculate precision of stripes along his back,
glassy eyes of the sacrificial beast.
Found him on the bank, all tuckered out.
The creature, set down gently, tries a hamstrung scramble—
helpless to escape the line, the nearness of humans.
Oh, bless his heart, oh, bless his heart,
my handwringing compassion mutters, useless.
Someone pulls out an army knife, opens scissors, hesitates.
The quandary—how to hold the pygmy head, avoid the bite.
How long the struggle at the water’s edge,
tiny lungs panting against a sodden weight?
Since sunup, I bet, else coyote, owl, or snake.
… something in the car … the army knife guy goes, comes back—
square of fringed fabric held out before him, an offering.
Reader, you who scoff at too much story in poems,
or poems that reach for meaning,
bear with me.
I’ve got to tell this right—
He brings a prayer shawl from the car.
Wrapped tenderly in lavish browns and grays,
the chipmunk grows still, scissors snip.
Release is the human word for chipmunk.
A dash of stripes and tail. He’s gone.
Kathy Nelson, 2019 recipient of the James Dickey Prize (Five Points, A Journal of Literature and Art) and twice nominated for the Pushcart, is an MFA graduate of the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. In addition to her two chapbooks, Cattails and Whose Names Have Slipped Away, and her full-length The Ledger of Mistakes, forthcoming from Terrapin Books, her work has appeared in LEON Literary Journal, New Ohio Review, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Twelve Mile Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review and elsewhere.