Copyright © 2018 David Bottoms. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Winter 2018.
Loaded on beer and whiskey, we ride to the dump in carloads to turn our headlights across the wasted field, freeze the startled eyes of rats against mounds of rubbish. Shot in the head, they jump only once, lie still like dead beer cans. Shot in the gut or rump, they writhe and try to burrow into garbage, hide in old truck tires, rusty oil drums, cardboard boxes scattered across the mounds, or else drag themselves on forelegs across our beams of light toward the darkness at the edge of the dump. It's the light they believe kills. We drink and load again, let them crawl for all they're worth into the darkness we're headed for.
From Armored Hearts, published by Copper Canyon Press, 1995. Copyright © by David Bottoms, 1995. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.
Sometimes when she sleeps, her face against the pillow (or sheet) almost achieves an otherworldly peace. Sometimes when the traffic and bother of the day dissolve and her deeper self eases out, when sunlight edges through curtains and drapes the bed, I know she’s in another place, a purer place, which perhaps doesn’t include me, though certainly includes love, which may include the possibility of me. Sometimes then her face against the sheet (or pillow) achieves (almost) an otherworldly calm, (do I dare say that?) and glows (almost) as it glowed years ago just after our daughter’s head slipped through the birth canal. I remember that wet sticky swirl of hair turning slightly so the slick body might follow more easily, and how the midwife or nurse or doctor (or someone) laid an firm open hand under that head and guided our child into the world. When that hand laid our daughter on her mother’s breast, such a sigh followed, a long exhausted breath, and (stunned) I saw in my wife’s face an ecstasy I knew I’d never (quite) see again.