I have decided to feature of few of my poems this week. I won't say that I'm the Poet of the Week. I'm just revisiting stuff that I wrote a while ago.
Today's poem used to be one that I was most known for. People called it "the squirrel poem." It's from my collection. When my book first came out, I read this poem so much that I got sick of it. I haven't even looked at it for about ten years.
Saint Marty thinks it holds up, although it's a little dark.
Place in the Forest
by: Martin Achatz
With one B-B, Paul took the squirrel down.
When it hit the ground, it screamed
A squirrel scream, high and long
Like a train whistle raised five octaves.
It scratched the earth
Like it was trying to dig its own grave,
A bead of blood flowering on its back.
Paul and I watched it spasm and slow,
A wind-up toy uncoiling its tense spring.
It raced breaths in-out-in-out-in-out-in-out.
In school, we read about Vlad the Impaler
Who feasted on roasted pig in a field of people
On spikes. The wood-cut illustration showed
Vlad sipping wine from a chalice
As a pregnant woman slithered down
A pointed pole, her mouth a black leech of pain.
Paul found a stick, skewered the squirrel,
Which writhed, scratched at the bark.
He lifted the stick, raised the squirrel
To the sky. Its tail snaked and batted
The clouds. Paul flung the squirrel
Into the woods, its scream cleaving the air.
Ten years later, he died of AIDS.
I thought of that squirrel when I heard
Stories of the red sarcoma blossoms
On his face. I imagined him
In his hospital bed, his chest heaving,
His eyes seeing that place in the forest
Where squirrels wail and claw.