Shooting the Moon
I’d fire arrows and BBs at it
by the score, never thinking what
target they finally found.
What is the moon? I kept asking.
God’s shield? The Devil’s mirror?
It’s not the perfect blister on a black foot
or the green cheese my grandfather grinned
about. In the flat earth of my youth, I believed
only in the plain, not in books.
Trust was straight and close cropped
like my hair. Why couldn’t I hit
the crescent, hanging like a banana,
with my .22? The ammo box read,
Range: one mile. How far could it be?
I was ten by Halloween that year
it hung orange as a pumpkin overhead,
God’s trick-or-treat mask. I aimed up
and up with the 12 gauge from my uncle’s
closet and waited for the wind to die down.
No fluttering leaves in the line of fire.
With the gun butt snug against my shoulder,
I squinted at the shadow of the nose
and squeezed the trigger as I’d been shown.
Light spread over the barrel, each pellet
burned into the sky. Shot sprayed
down round me again, like…spit,
from how far?
Machine from Animal
When I was a kid, I couldn’t tell
machine from animal.
The patience of those cars waiting
all night at the curb, like horses
tethered for hours outside saloons,
disturbed my sleep.
In the fields, cows stood chewing
their cuds and shoving out manure.
Our washer or dryer shook
and left a little red pool.
My father wound a grasshopper
up and let it leap into the weeds.
It leaked a little oil in his palm.
Yet, I rode our dog, and teased
our cat, I climbed into our Plymouth
and was driven off to school.
I am still that kind of fool.
Horses and High Water
The first half of December, the earthy waters
stalked up the McMurty fields.
The old man’s four horses went to the high corner,
near his house, to stand sad-eyed
and brown as violins.
When the water
covered the bellies of his tractor and his truck,
he still did nothing, as if disbelief were a sufficient dam.
Above ground like dough, full of dreadmarks, and the horses’
sucking hooves, clouds locked into their docks.
The temperature dropped; sky melted toward Christmas.
I gave up looking
out the window. The freezing rain still caught
in the horses’ hair; ice landed in their lashes.
Each morning there was fresh hay in the highest
part of the lot. It is in such contrasts I hear
the caroling of despair.
Now, those four horses
have run far from the stable of memory.
The minute hands of snow curried everything
at midnight, saying, Remember,
there is no such thing as lost.
Copyright © Ron Houchin 2013