Featured Poem 1/26/04


Sometimes I'm a skinner.
It's work anyway. About twenty
of us leave town with rifles and
                    sharp knives at our sides.

The sun comes up early and cold.
Spare shadows of clouds touch us
and pass softly over the grasses
                    into the mountains.

We get hundreds at a go. After
the chase we ride back through
their hulks spotting the prairie.

Billy can skin one in ten minutes,
but sloppy. When I start cuttin'
it's near perfect, near seamless
                    as can be.

The drover yells: "Cut em' up.
Rain's comin'." A blanket is pulled
up from behind the mountains.

It waves and flutters over us.
In a dwindling line we ride along hilltops
barely visible, and disappear.

The rain crashes down.
Some turn their skins inside out
across their backs, gore streaming

The storm washes the blood back
into the ground, the winds bite
at the bared flesh and fat, tearing
                    then down.

Looking round I'm not sure
if we are men
or death riding.

At sunset the rain's stopped.
Buffalo roasts of the fire
and the sky is clear, soft,
                    the horizon crimson.

And where between us and death
the grass springs up from our horses' hooves
and sways silently on the prairie,
                    it's there we've left our song.

© Brad Harkins, December 2003

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