Three Allegories And A Gospel Song

by Gerard Donnelly Smith

November 17, 2003


The Dead Sheep

Turkey vultures tore sleep from tired bones,
then rested on dead elm branches on the back forty.
I counted sixty, once, circling in the heron blue sky
on a thermal vortex, smelling for carrion
adrift on the green, rolling ocean.
In those halcyon days, the small farmers,—
husbands of mother earth—knew the buzzards:
knew them for their bald head, and ruddy complexion,
knew them for that smell of death lingering
around their white collars and leather shoes.
Now those vultures hover round the interstate,
surveying the diminishing landscape for roadkill.
Around the cloverleaf they build their nests,
hoping for an accidental death, a cheap, fast meal:
      consuming and consuming in a tightening gyre,
      the sheep cannot hear the warning above the grinder.


The Dead Chicken

The dead chicken sits on its tar-rail,
recalling the dry landscape
while in the field fat sheep float
like brown clouds on a dusty brown sky.

The dead chicken cocks its head
and for a moment holds precisely still,
listening for a singular sound in the dirt,
for a grub or a worm ascending.

The dead chicken is nonchalant,
caring not if its feathers are primed,
caring not if its eggs ever hatch,
or boil, or scramble or fry.

The dead chicken sits on its tar-rail
in a season so unseasonably hot
that being what a dead chicken must,
must seem like such a burden.


The Dead Skunks

Dead skunks don't know
that everyone knows they're dead,
that no one need visit where the body lies
to know a dead skunk's passing.

Dead skunks don't know
that often their memories linger,
that synesthesia guarantees
the smell of death is black and white.

Dead skunks don't know
that no one celebrates their passage,
but swear to god how much death stinks,
swerving to miss the presence.


The Dead Duck

Sitting there already dead, still doesn't know it.
Head sticking out of the sand, a turkey shoot
but even easier.

Some suicidal plan taking form even now,
some caricature in chiaroscuro plotting
Daffy's demise.

The end is already clear: One is dead,
and one does not even know
he is dead.

Sitting there already dead, all dressed up,
all ready for the table and the knife,
in that cold, cold kitchen.

Some rationalized recipe hatching even now,
some cartoon-like figures figuring the price
to sustain the insidious hunger.

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Poetry on Swans


Gerard Donnelly Smith, a poet and musician, teaches creative writing, literature and composition at Clark College in Vancouver WA. CERRO de la ESTRELLA (Logan Elm Press, 1992) was chosen for The Governor's Award for the Arts in Ohio, 1992. Excerpts from THE AMERICAN CORPSE (10 poems) were published in Apex of the M in 1995. He is the current director of the Columbia Writers Series, an Honorary Board Member of The Mountain Writers Series, and co-advisor of the Native American Student Council at Clark College. He has also organized readings for Poets Against the War.

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Published November 17
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