Once In the Land of Cumulative Pelts . . . by Fritz Ward


But no one tells that story
any longer. That story is a bear
trap glazed with rust and boar’s blood.
This poem is the skin of the salmon
drizzled with honey and salt
served in a moonlit Havahart.
This is the night we lay
our heavy heads on feather-dead
pillows and listen to the raccoons
making a life of our attic. In the heavens
between our hungers and theirs,
you keep breathing
the best parts of midnight,
leaving me only the scat of stars.
Baited with the paw
of a snow fox the color
of your finest lingerie
and the last slice
of raspberry pie—your heart,
that trap, waiting to snap.
If I let my sheep loose,
can I trust your animal
instincts? If I call
the carrion home,
will you sing
the butcher’s song
come morning?
Tell me again how
delicate your snares.
How they snaked
for months through
the weathered seasons
just to graze a bare ankle.
If I promised you
two truths, then keep
reading me.        One:
When I scream
          your name,
I mean to spook
all the beasts
but you.           Two:
If no one tells
our story, then we
haven’t failed
Fritz Ward’s poems have appeared in more than seventy publications, including American Letters & Commentary, Another Chicago Magazine, Blackbird, and Gulf Coast. He received an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is a recipient of the Cecil Hemley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America, His full-length manuscript, Dear Cannibal, has been a finalist and semi-finalist for the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Prize, the National Poetry Series, the Washington Prize, The Brittingham Prize, Four Way Books Levis Prize, and several other contests. He currently lives just outside of Philadelphia and works at Swarthmore College.