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Ice Walking by Mark Penny

by Jonathon | 1.24.13

Beaver_dam_in_Tierra_del_Fuego

A nameless beaver sprang the trap.
Must have swum through it on his way up shore.
The two dogs, Jax and Cleo, crouched in their winter coats,
Gripped and pulled,
But the snare held,
Jealous of its prey.
I found them:
Red paw prints in the savaged snow,
Scrabbling blindly at the brink.
They parted for me.
I freed the carcass.
Primate hands
Dripping intelligence,
Carried the trophy to the pen
I’d built
To keep the collies off the goats–
The neighbour’s goats.
I threw the carcass down.
The dogs converged,
Patience and awe giving way to greed.
I watched awhile,
Then turned to human things.

There were two dams below the house:
The calf-deep creek
Bloated to drowning-depth in two black ponds.

Nights with a flashlight, brimstone eyes
Cruising the surfaces.
The still woods bristled:
Gnawed-off stakes,
Brute remains of silent-rooted trees,
Victims of mammal industry,
Torn bones
Woven in muddy, water-rotted domes.

Winter falls.
Green shapes yield to strangling ash,
Thicken and round out.
Water stills.
I try my foot on the narrow creek.
It holds.
Two feet.
I step.
I stop,
Listen for shifting,
Feel the seams,
Shuffle another pace or two.
All still.
All whole.
The dogs and I
Walk the half-glowing road
Onto the pond,
Ears up,
Knees bent,
Ingrown eye scanning the scratched slab,
The wind-laid pavement.

Now each breath
Savors its passage through the lungs
Upward,
The sky,
Rampant with icy lights–
And tall between,
Lone man
Gaping
As he breathes.
______________________________________________________________
Mark Penny has published with WIZ, and won last year’s Admin Award in the Spring Runoff. He was a finalist in the Goldberg’s “Four Centuries” competition in 2012. He recently founded “The Lowly Seraphim,” an “e-collective” for speculative Mormon fiction.

Photo “Beaver dam in Tierra del Fuego” via Wikimedia Commons.

2 Responses to Ice Walking by Mark Penny

  1. Sarah Dunster

    I love your imagery at the beginning, with the beaver trap, the collies. Theme: man, binding natute?

  2. Mark Penny

    Sorry, Sarah. I’ve been away in other places.

    Theme. Huh. Definitely man AND nature. Binding? Not sure what you mean. For me it was relating an incident and a feel, the feeling of being merely man, halfway between a beaver creek and the giant sky. Well, not halfway. Maybe a thousandth of the way. And of being alive as a thing of nature with a thinking brain, conscious of dangers, spaces and silences. The last three lines kind of sum it up. Man is alone in his intelligence. He is still agape before the universe. He still relishes life, wherever he has it.

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