The hunters at the gas station under the fluorescent lights.
The man in front of me lets me go because I’m a woman,
it’s long been a ruling that women and children go first.
Waxing towards full duchess, the moon is crueler than usual.
The Hunter’s Ball gathers her sons to be received in darkness,
I see a juvenile sniper crowned and ready on the lighted roof.
At the bar, the men in orange look almost friendly. They are
grandfathers, fathers, and sons with eyes and personalities,
watching the game. A sculpture of old stomping grounds,
they are robust and decorated, calm, drinking Busch Lite.
No one is talking about today’s hunt. The fluorescent lights
have not turned on yet. I get my food without saying a word.
The moon arrives, fashionably late, color-blocked by blood.
She drifts down the spiral staircase where the hunters pay a
final tribute. She chooses the season’s favorites, graciously
bestowing the honor of the only moon that matters in her sky.
The men, left in the dark, prepare themselves for atonement.
The gutted sons dress their fathers under the fluorescent lights.
Nikki Wallschlaeger’s work has been featured in The Nation, Brick, American Poetry Review, Witness, Kenyon Review, POETRY, and others. She is the author of the full-length collections Houses and Crawlspace as well as the graphic book I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel from Bloof Books. She is also the author of an artist book called “Operation USA,” through the Baltimore-based book arts group Container, a project acquired by Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee. Her third collection, Waterbaby, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2021.
You can read more of Nikki Wallschlaeger’s poetry in TLR: Babel Fish