Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2015  v14n1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Elegy for the Deodand

Maybe it was the hawthorn
scratching at the plate glass
that made Jim think of the elk,

the sharp wind off Coralville Lake
cutting loud across the wire grass.

He couldn’t remember
the story completely—

why the bull elk happened
into his neighbors’ garden,

or what signal it was
that warned them.

But the neighbor and his wife
had taken shelter

behind the bathroom door
when the elk charged.

The glass portico crashed,
giving way to that weight
of animal skull,

then the wildness
which tumbled in the bull
melted into agony.

And what happened next
is what often happens next.

When Jim arrived,
the beast was still beside the love seat,
lost in a world of his own blood,

mesmerized by the glittering
corona which surrounded him.

Jim described the shot
like the crack of an oak giving way.

Punished for what
he couldn’t understand,

or is punishment
even an applicable word?

Deodand, I think,
picturing the blood—

that principle of old English law
where the rain-soaked bough

which crushed the ox driver’s spine
must be splintered and scattered,

the waterwheel whose paddles
drowned the bather
must be salted and burned.

A thing forfeited or given to God
the text says.

To believe such a thing
is to imagine the world
as two natures.

The one where the bulls
locked antlers over harems.

The other a foreign code
under which the bull suffered.

But why the authority of one
over another?

Glowering at his own posturing,
the creature could not think
there might be one type of beauty

we must break through
to find another.

That we might die
trying to reach it.  end  

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