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Summer 2004

Death

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a poem in two parts

1.

Late afternoon, snow starts. I'm walking
with my husband, as we do, in the city,
talking, as often we also do, about the problem of
putting dead animals in poems.
"Too obvious,
invisible, symbolic," I say. My husband agrees,
or might not be listening. "Maybe," he says.
"It disappears into its facts." Snowflakes like fingertip
touches on our faces. We turn the corner:
Ninth St. Market-kale, collards, garlic piles—
bootleg videos, clap-to-start singing Xmas elf dolls—
and "Look!"—my husband pokes me, points—
a dead deer is pushed into this poem. Junior
the butcher rolls it forward, laid out across
a low dolly: a button buck, tiny spikes,
red eyes clouded over-stiff like a toy horse
knocked on its side. Hunters freeze their kill,
bring it to Junior to make "roasts, chops—
hamburger, mostly," Junior says. "Ow!"
He dances awkward around the hooves. "Dead
but still kicking—I knew it wouldn't fit in the door.
I tell them, 'Cut the legs at the knee, you're not
losing meat.' They can't find the joint." He bends;
his five-inch fibrox-handle straight-edge knife
slides in the knee-knuckle. The leg-end falls.
By now you're imagining a stereotypical butcher—
big man, tall, gore-stained apron, toupée—
and you're almost right. Junior's never
marked with blood; he raises orchids
which curl their panicles and lippy scapes
above his fancy sausages. He paints Renoir
copies he shows among carcasses in his window:
plushy naked ladies look ethereal
beside real meat. Second hoof, third hoof.
Frozen blood on frozen belly hair. Closest
I've been to a dead animal with its skin on.
Gauze over the city, gauze really is what the
sky looks like, clouded over. Snow detaches
down to our world in dit-dots. Fourth hoof.
Junior's hand follows where the knife feels to go.


2.

"Ow," I say, when we get home. "Don't touch
my body, your hands are too cold. But
I'll hold them in my armpits till they're warm."
Curtains printed with small red flowers
hiked back. Night. Asterisks of snow. His hands
warmer now. Snow in swirls across the window,
invisible, symbolic, obvious.


Daisy Fried



Daisy Fried’s first book of poems, She Didn’t Mean to Do It, won the Starrett Prize. Normally resident in Philadelphia, she will be a Hodder Fellow at Princeton in the coming year.
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