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On Killing Prairie Rattlers

A poem

Published on:
January 16, 2018
Read time:
1 min.
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Yesterday in the east pasture—
where you would pass your
hours setting snares for quail and hares—
I swore I heard a child crying in the grama grass.

I shuffled the broom bushes and loosed
a rattler. Its unlocked jaws crowned
a cry, a head, fur and ears, a mouth:
A rabbit being swallowed, still shrieking.
I stomped both heads
under one heel.

Mercy is violent but is not violence,
I would have tried to tell you.

That baby-cry in the blue-stem, though:
I thought it was you, Beau,
my one begotten, marrow of my bone,
twenty-two years ago
when you lifted your hand to me
pocked with pairs of holes.

Your whole arm swole.
You whimpered as I drove,
and I fought to unknow
how the venom would move—

clouding your blood,
blotting capillaries
in your melting muscles,
as if garrulous God
hiccuped half-way through li—ght.

Lie again upon the table, Beau,
while your failing heart, hovering
in the deep dark of your ribs,
dissolves and your venom-thinned blood
of my blood wastes
(your marrow aches to make more)
and spills into your chest.

You die seven times
seventy times before my eyes.
Each time I pray for mercy, for relief,
and am given only a longer grief.

Seth Wieck
Seth Wieck grew up on a dryland farm in a region that receives less than twenty inches of rain per year. His father counseled him to leave agriculture, so he earned his BA in English and philosophy from West Texas A&M University. He now lives in Amarillo with his wife and three children. His stories, poetry, and essays can be found in various publications, including Narrative Magazine and Curator Magazine.

Cover image by Owen Wassell.

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