Today's poem is by Stephanie Emily Dickinson

Emily and the Bobcat

1897. I trailed my brother Josef past the already darkening ditch. He
carried our grandfather's musket and willed us to find the bobcat that
had eaten our sheep. In the hour before dusk, I knew the cat awoke
in his den, the hollow of a felled tree and its crumbling guts.
Mammalia carnivore. He is on the move now, Josef said. The one
rumored to have tasted human flesh. Weeds knotted the ice as if
frogs hibernating, and I called to them but they were beyond my
voice, and then we entered the slough where the creek had
overflowed. Eerily beautiful, the slithering yellow banks with exposed
roots and the bulb-tails of fungus. Beautiful too the echoes of
quacking ducks, the autumn muskrat slapping the water—its ladle-tail
crashing-birds whirring up. I was sliding and falling, as we trudged
deeper into the broken trees, stumbling where a human hunter had
thrown away two quail, as if the killing was enough. I said grace over
the fowls, their feathers of cold white lilies, unsung, not even a meal
made of them—wasted. We were the explorer and his half-breed,
Lewis and Clark—scouting. I knew my grandfather's musket had
rusted shut as I steadied it over the anvil while my brother hammered
but the bolt would not open. The sky had almost leaked the last of its
pale light through the branches when the bobcat appeared from the
planet of the starving. He watched, he listened. His muzzle sparked
with blue beads of snow. I wanted to grip his paws before ice
exploded them like grapes held too long by the summer sun. Come
for the quail or us, strings of spittle and dry leaves hung from his
teeth. And then he screamed like a child or Ma giving birth to our
youngest brother. My brother lifted the musket as though a club but
did not swing it. How cinnamon tames the apples into sugary broth,
so the sight of the musket sweetened the cat. He took the white quail
offered him. His meal inseparable from the quail's tune of Bobwhoit
bobwhoit poor bobwhoit
. My brother and I had a mother and father out
there on the other side of the trees; sometimes we wondered about
them, and sometimes we forgot, and believed we were the spawn of
timber wolves or bobcats. Starlings with their black feathers and
golden eyes. Never were we deer mewling. Never prey melting away
with their shy, mournful eyes.

Copyright © 2017 Stephanie Emily Dickinson All rights reserved
from The Emily Fables
ELJ Editions
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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