Roger Pfingston

The Deer Poem


Before we finally thought to look up,

sighting your crumpled body on the path

leading down from the abandoned railroad bridge,

we smelled you for days at that wooded end

of our walks through town on the B-Line Trail,

fearing it might be one of the homeless

who frequent these woods. It was the maggots,

their milky crawling over asphalt, that stopped   

us cold as we scraped and twisted our shoes

in the runners' white rock, wondering what

could've spawned such a teeming mass.


Thus we found you—darkly sprawled,

half-eaten thing—the writhing in your belly

visible even from our distance, brought down

perhaps by a poorly gauged jump

from the track, who knows what in pursuit.

And there you died or fell dead, concealed

by the fringe of foliage. For weeks we've kept

a passing journal of your disassembly, the odd

mound you've become, while each day's traffic

continues its living burn, the bridge abutment

on either side defaced with anger and love.





The gutter peckers are busy this fall day,

come up out of the grass, out of the burning

trees to feed in the narrow trough, cat poised

in the bay window, wide-eyed and born

to leap, jaw trembling at the peck and scratch.


Her throat constricts to jagged cries when one

drops full view, attacking its mirrored self,

flashing thud of rust-feathered breast

that triggers the upward thrust, claws bared

to bring it down, thwarted by the alchemy of glass,


though just as quick her muscles tense

to something new, wind freeing the wingless

hues that dip and glide to a tinfoil tap and rustle

on the ground below, the seeming echo

teasing her ear, firing the green of her eyes.





Cave, camel, humpback,

whatever your local tongue prefers,

it's still one ugly cricket. Not a chirper

(no haiku poet's companion here!)

nor the badass spider it would

have you believe, though wall

clinging is among its artful dodges,

four-inch legs akimbo, cocked and ready.


When discovered it will jump

the unexpected, meaning at you,

before it pops away, and if, in the dark

of your basement, it finds slim pickings

(the drier the better in that regard),

it will devour its own legs, the good

news being it cannot regenerate

as it slows and tilts to a dusty stillness.



Indiana Redux


The distance between Darmstadt      

and Haubstadt in 1958 was five miles,

more or less, and still is, evoking

a sameness that pleasures the mind,

both towns north of Evansville

on Highway 41, not to mention

the black-headed goat still crossing

the road among the sheep, my girl

snuggled tight and popping Dentyne,

this in my dad's new Buick with one

of those grinning grilles, WJPS

rocking us due south to the Sunset

Drive-in where the on-screen clock

is timing down, though we both know

there's time to spare, cartoons

and previews before the lion roars,  

announcing the main feature,

above it all the man in the moon

as stoic as ever in spite of the stars.



The Point of Her Story


Still trying to adjust her hearing aid,

my mother is telling the story of my

Aunt Lorene, oldest of five sisters,

gone now, born on the cusp of a war

that didn't mean a tinker's damn

to the Sandage family trying to plow

a living from sorghum on a small

farm in southern Indiana.


Telling how a teenage Lorene

was thrown from a horse and dragged

over a barbed-wire fence that tore

the flesh from her arms and legs

in bloody strips. It was the late

twenties and they were poor

as Job's turkey, my mother says.

There wasn't money for or even

the thought of paying a doctor

to treat the wounds. Turpentine

and rags, that's how her mom

and dad took care of things like that.


Lorene grew up a country beauty

in spite of scars, raised five daughters

and a son in a house half wrapped

in woods scented with honeysuckle

where Uncle Dave, his jaw pouched

with a plug of Stoker's, hunted rabbits

and squirrels for meat they fried

in a skillet of grease and onions.

Like most married men, he died

before she did twenty years later

in her sleep, my mother's hearing aid

whistling as she taps my knee and says,

"Now that's the way to go, God willing."

Roger Pfingston has new poems in Passager and Naugatuck River Review. His chapbook, A Day Marked for Telling, was published in 2011 by Finishing Line Press.



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