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by Wendy Taylor Carlisle

Fawn dead on the roadside, a grille sacrifice, “they jump right at you,” Larry says, who knows about deer and also that there are coon here although I don’t see them or the buck since the dogs came to live with us but nothing spooks the armadillo, shuffling into the brush, proto-brain signaling hunger, scythe claws at the roots, mining the rustling night. Afternoon rain showers steam the pasture. The dog shakes his collar. A fox, flea-lean, spooks her kit across the new blacktop on 1080. There’s a mountain lion den in the cliffs above the dry streambed, on the limestone over the river, a lice-eaten carcass, shed antlers. Summer was supposed to end today. The forecast: rain then chill, the heat ushered out by nights in the fifties. Instead summer squats the woods where nothing stirs but the invisible game we live with here.

This week the lomi-lomi masseur cleansed my friend’s place with a hawk fan, a rare eagle wing bone flute, a fresh-water turtle shell, a self-beaded medicine bag with a bobcat flap, salt spray, a cedar smudge bowl, sage, and sweet grass. During the ceremony, Copalsmoke nosed the corners. Once he cleansed her house, he cleansed my friend. She said her “whole life had probably changed at that moment,” but this morning summer’s stalled here, thick air and cicadas. I figure it was a too-small space they smudged, not nearly big enough to scrub us, not wide enough to bring on the chilly weather and a real rain. No change today, only the heat and the rustle.

Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the author of two books of poetry, Reading Berryman to the Dog and Discount Fireworks, and two chapbooks.

Lead image: “ARMADILLO, NINE-BANDED” (via Flickr user Alan Schmierer)