By SM Stubbs
Featured art: Robert Frederick Blum (1857-1903)
Upon a hill, a house. Upon the house,
a roof. On the roof, a bird. The bird—
oiled feathers, beak like an awl—grooms
the roof’s moss, subsists on ticks
and silverfish. Inside the house, a man
without a tongue and a woman
who loves him. The woman grooms
the house, subsists on potatoes and rice
and whatever rodents roam the slope.
The man hunts every day until noon.
Every day he returns empty-handed,
his shoulders tense as flywheels,
his jaw the floor of a collapsed cave,
crowded with everything he cannot say.
She brews his tea. She washes the corners
of the house. She chases the bird away.
At sundown the man leaves again, hunting.
Upon another hill, another house. Another
woman waits inside. The man without
a tongue feasts on rabbit she trapped
in a pit. From fireplace ashes she makes lye
and scrubs his back. She fills his canteen with it.
By the time her sister misses him, his body
has sunk to the bottom of the pond.
SM Stubbs until very recently co-owned a bar in Brooklyn. Recipient of a scholarship to Bread Loaf, he has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets. Winner of the 2019 Poetry Prize from The Freshwater Review and runner-up in several others. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, The Normal School, Puerto del Sol, Cherry Tree, Carolina Quarterly, Atticus Review, Twyckenham Notes, and Iron Horse Literary Review, among others. Work forthcoming in december, Crab Creek Review and more.
Originally published in NOR 28