Poetry May 2011

Yearling

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my grandmother’s Thanksgiving Day was the day
they slaughtered the hog the warm carcass hoisted by its heels
from the oak the planks across sawhorses holding the hams the buckets
catching the blood the shanks the organ meats the chunks of white fat
for her biscuits the feet sunk into brine the yard-dogs that whined
for the leathery ear while she lay down with the baby always
there was a baby needing a nap
              my neighbor

at ninety-six claims she’s never had a nap she has no use for dogs
she used to spend Thanksgiving in the woods getting her deer
and strung it up outside the shed where now droops
head down rack down her son’s deer her knives
stay sharp one year her son brought by

not venison a yearling bear glossy and black
dressed out there wasn’t much underneath its thick coat
a scrawny frame she said the paws so much like hands
when she looked through the window it startled her
hanging there the size of a child

Ellen Bryant Voigt’s most recent collection is Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976–2006. She lives in Vermont.
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