Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Difficult Body

A story: There was a cow in the road, struck by a semi--
half-moon of carcass and jutting legs, eyes
already milky with dust and snow, rolled upward

as if tired of this world tilted on its side.
We drove through the pink light of the police cruiser,
her broken flank blowing steam in the air. 

Minutes later, a deer sprang onto the road
and we hit her, crushed her pelvis--the drama reversed,
first consequence, then action--but the doe,

not dead, pulled herself with front legs
into the ditch. My father went to her, stunned her
with a tire iron before cutting her throat, and today I think

of the body of St. Francis in the Arizona desert,
carved from wood and laid in his casket,
lovingly dressed in red and white satin

covered in petitions--medals, locks of hair,
photos of infants, his head lifted and stroked,
the grain of his brow kissed by the penitent.

O wooden saint, dry body. I will not be like you,
carapace. A chalky shell scooped of its life. 
I will leave less than this behind me.

Credit


From The Anchorage by Mark Wunderlich. Copyright © 1999 by the University of Massachusetts Press. Reprinted by permission of the University of Massachusetts Press. All rights reserved.

Author


Mark Wunderlich

Born in 1968, Mark Wunderlich won the Lambda Literary Award for his debut collection, The Anchorage.

Date Published: 1999-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/difficult-body