Three poems by Benjamin Cutler

The Boy Who Hunts


out of season tells me

the fatty meat behind a deer’s eye,

if eaten raw and right


after the kill, tastes 

like dough—and he laughs 

when he says it: The doe


tastes like dough. I believe

him—believe his tongue

knows the salty and shapeless 


taste of uncooked bread,

and his young trigger-

calloused fingers the slick


release of a dead eye 

pried from a still-warm socket 

that would have held it well


to see another waking

spring, through summer’s green

abundance, into the treacherous fall. 


                        *


This boy who hunts

out of season tells me he leaves


the body where it lies

to bloat like a yeasted loaf,


and I believe him—believe 

he knows nothing


of the full and warm flavor 

of patience; nothing 


of any season save his own

hard and violent weather;


nothing of living, 

gentle eyes


and the sweetness 

that rises behind them.




Should you depart in the morning,


your boots’ crunch 

along your blood-


kin’s secret trail 

will send the cottontails 


bounding into the brambles.

Mind their fear only a little, 


only enough to remember 

you mean no harm


until you enter the dawn-

fogged creek. A warning:


root and rock will break 

your ankle with no thought 


toward justice—or mercy. 

Wade carefully. Present 


gently. Remember: you are

not here. Keep the line 


slack, keep the line 

tight, wait for the brook


trout to rise like water’s

lightning to your offering.


Lift. Hold. Pull. Grip

lightly with wet hands 


until the harm is done—

so little harm, 


you will tell yourself,

such bright beauty,


you will tell yourself—

and release. Return home


by nightfall. Notice,

as you walk the darkened 


path, the bat circling, sightless, 

diving for waking moths;


notice the grace—notice

this swift and fearless art.



An Interruption 


I close the book written with breath

and open it again. I belong to this gravity 


that sends the letter-thin moth—

too raptured by light to be tethered 


by these pages—down to my breast where skin 

ebbs and eddies. As always, the shimmering

                                                            

dark fish of my heart rises 

like a loosed ribbon of shadow from her lonely 


chamber and sips this floating whisper 

of a winged body—a delicate new sacrament—


into her silent mouth then returns to her shade- 

blooded pool where she waits—    


still—for the gift of another fallen word.





Benjamin Cutler is an award-winning poet and author of the full-length book of poetry, The Geese Who Might be Gods (Main Street Rag, 2019). His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times and has appeared in Cold Mountain Review, EcoTheo Review, The Carolina Quarterly, and The Lascaux Review, among many others. In addition, Benjamin is a high-school English teacher in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina where he lives with his family and frequents the local rivers and trails.