2 minute read
Ornate Beast by Claire Hamner Matturro
The break of a deer trail
cuts through pine, oak and ash
into thick black woods
where nothing dies but turns
to humus and green shadow
in the forested field behind hospice.
My mother’s thin hands twist
my own. Her needs are a steel tether,
her dying a bond I can’t tear.
But while she sleeps I can run
the deer trail for a fleeting break
that tests the strength of steel.
A tang of mint and mold lifts
like mist from crushed brown leaves
as I race the trail, the tethers
a strangling rope tripping me till I fall
into mint and poison ivy, barely seeing
the beast that rests in front of me.
Grief rears up from humus
in the black woods where it loiters,
an ornate beast, neither cat nor wolf
but a bit of both. Grief’s scent is bear,
its black eyes panther,
but its fur is thick, stifling wool.
Lolling back on tawny haunches,
Grief crushes mint and poison ivy
beneath its weight and rips
my steel tethers
into shards of shiny foil
which swirl and fall in flurries.
I gather the shards and tatters
into a bouquet of mint and steel,
and leave the woods to sit again
with the dying woman, our grief
now a shared specter, neither cat nor wolf,
but an ornate beast of stifling weight.
Claire Hamner Matturro has been a journalist, lawyer, organic blueberry farmer, and college instructor. She is also the author of eight novels, including a series published by HarperCollins. Her poetry appears in Slant, Kissing Dynamite, New Verse News, One Art, Muddy River Poetry Review, Topical Poetry, Tiger Moth Review, Lascaux Review, and is forthcoming in Glassworks and Eunoia Review. An associate editor at Southern Literary Review, she lives in Florida with her husband and thier rescued crossed-eyed cat.