Poetry 2013 / Volume 44

At the Bar Full of Rotting Animals — Darien Cavanaugh

The sock-eye, the painted deer, the Sisyphian dung beetle
come here to die while still fat and horny,
sucking up the wheat and the mold,
the yesterday and the story
of the giant beaver that gazed
across a thin river but wouldn’t swim,
so it sat there bone dry and wasted until
everyone laughed and cried “It’s a metaphor,”

everyone except the handsome couple  drawn on the wall.

He is too serious a man to laugh at puns,
and she would never smile without him.
They’ve been stuck there for years, since
men shaved clean and parted their hair straight
to sit on trusses in pin-striped suits with double
Windsors and frail young women in summer dresses
cautiously touched men’s wrists to count
their pores and whiskers, heartbeats and whispers.
They are coming or going, falling
in or out of love, as a train patiently blows
a frozen puff of steam in the background.
They watch their invisible feet dangle below the frame,
take forever to decide what’s for dinner
or if they’ll wait to learn about steel
wheels passing  over carnal bodies.

But it is difficult to focus on an old drawing on a wall
behind shelves of clear mugs and green bottles
in a room where piss and taxidermy reign,
where butterflies are pinned to mottled cork,
and a fake saber-toothed tiger’s skull
wears a dusty Santa hat and a plastic lei,
where a photo proves the skunk fled
the hen house at dawn with egg-drenched lips,
and where even the old fox got caught, stuffed
and mounted, one leg permanently perched
on a little stump, his head raised in crafted interest
to stare towards an impossible horizon with glass eyes.

In the corner hangs a wire cage full of bones yellow as dusk
and a beak that fed a heart that fed wings that carried a bird
through skies that bones forgot in search of a feast of maggots
and apples and a warm body to hold off the night.
The door is open. It hangs on a hinge.

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