To the Beavers
The landlord sent me to kill you.
I did not, but would have, if we had met,
and I know you had been here. At sunrise,
I stood on the peak of your wedge-shaped dam
and buried the mattock into its side,
cracking branches, yanking chunks
of packed mud loose. I used
shallow strokes that spring morning
—more force got me stuck—and minnows
inspected my work as a channel
opened to relieve the stagnant flow.
When I missed with a swing, the creek
spat green water and mud on my chest and face.
Thorny vines weaved into the muck opened
tears on the back of my hands.
Clay stopped the blood flow, and the air
felt heavy with moisture, pollen, the scent
of lavender and pear blossoms.
A clear crayfish crawled in the shallows.
I had come to revive the stream, to unbuild
your work. Nothing personal, the pay
was there, and the boss had the deed
to the land. Your lodge made for harder
work. It was twenty-feet across, and the sun
climbed higher as I ripped off the roof
one branch at a time, tossing
neatly chewed limbs onto the opposite bank.
Two geese watched from the shade
beneath a half-flooded dock.
I thought there might be kits or
yearlings asleep inside. Laid open,
all I found were eight empty chambers,
and that night when you didn’t return to repair
my damage, I knew you were gone.
Your unused cuttings by the lodge
looked older. I had broken open
a ghost town, and I’m glad for this. My job
was done. You beavers were gone, but I waited
as the sun emerged, breaking the darkness.
I waited with my small caliber rifle.
Box Wrapped in a Map
It arrives in the mail with highways snaked
red and blue across the thick paper folds,
addressed to me, but from an unknown home.
I pry the edges with a dull knife,
toss away scraps of Philadelphia, Savannah,
Charleston, and Quebec, shred the Rockies.
Deeper I find Phoenix, Pike’s Peak.
My fingers brush symbols of bustle
as I tear the streets and city grids away,
struggle with the tough, striated tape.
Layer after layer yields, and some serum wakes
my blood as I near the cardboard heart.
I forget old news about deathtraps
in packages or poisons lining envelopes. I don’t know
where I’m headed, but it looks like a ticket.
I’m ready. Take me away.