in memory of J
Yes, I have trouble dwelling in what’s mine.
No, I did not suspect his pain.
My mind is the one that’s still here,
that received the news, then saw the bone,
its row of flat, herbivore’s teeth
absorbing green from the moss.
Bent close, I described it until it was strange,
then familiar, then stranger—a character
transplaced from Ovid, saved or punished,
storied deer but concocted around the hymn of him
I’d known, if shallowly. A boy. I’d touched
his shoulders; I’d watched him dance in the fat
intersection of College and Magnolia, red lights glossing his open mouth and limbs.
His being now: a chrysalis of flesh and hide amassing then dissolving away
as the wind picks up, rhythmic but ruptured
on the bluff, a statue that could never be of stone.
His bed was elevated on crates and concrete blocks.
That I have always loved a storm
that can’t touch me is no secret.
What if I touched it. All of it. Description
drifting all over the dashboard, a running
boy’s essence poured into a deer’s mouth,
displacing the deer’s essence, running on and stumbling
uphill heaven-haunted toward the sound.
Excerpted from Judas Goat by Gabrielle Bates. Used with permission from Tin House. Copyright © 2022 by Gabrielle Bates.