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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.

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