The Death Terms of Cowboys (I) by Erin Radcliffe


Your childhood species don’t matter here—

all the birdless metalworks and noise
are less the merganser, less the yellowthroat.

You grew up in the wet pupa of a fairytale
where, afterwards, all the gods were devoured by wolves
and never spoke again.

Their sin was making nature a color code
a bruising rain where words were quarry stones
and the shifting of organs inside their ruby casings:

these were gifts to us, like shut-up windows and doors
because, in your presence, only carrion and history made sense.

The trees you would not name?
They writhe and capsize, now miniature.

The wind in their branches like mercury
as we birth the world’s final lovers,
spilling them onto the belly of the sky.

Erin Elkins Radcliffe’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Smartish Pace, Nashville Review, and Coal Hill Review. Originally from Indiana, Erin lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her family and is the author of Station of Rain (Dancing Girl Press, 2013).