God Bless the Backcountry

Two poems by Lily Starr

deer in the forest

God Bless the Backcountry

From the Deer Stand

I’ve never seen my father
look so small before.
My feet, in the velcro shoes,
dangle from the ledge
of the almost-treehouse.
But this is for killing.
Beyond the acre of browning
grass the bay is still
as a made bed. Behind me,
more trees. More crisping leaves,
more whistling from the barn swallow.
The sun is rising in front of us, the field
barely shadowed by the low-sitting house
that my grandparents built. And my father,
below me, stands with his arms apart.
In his green shirt, his gun in one hand
and his other palm open to the cold air,
he appears as if he’s on the cross
but prepared to defend himself.
I am so young here. My jacket swishes
when I move and my father spins
and puts a finger to his lips. Quiet,
he says, they can hear everything.
Can I tell you a secret?
We sat in the quiet
for hours imagining footsteps.
My father never killed anything,
but forgive him if he says he has.

To the Backcountry

God bless our cars
for carrying all this death.
How many times have I
helped my father hoist the bodies
of dead deer into the cab of his truck?
Nothing is as chilling as the sound
of a carcass rolling in the bed
like a collection of loose bottles.
Highbeams penetrate the dark
every mile or so, recurring as a dream.
There are moths scattered
on every windshield
in the county. God bless
the backcountry.
There is no one
in the passenger seat
but our former selves,
lively and harmless as violins.
The grass beside us nothing
but a suggestion of green.
God bless the lowland
and its thick air. We travel
through the night looking
for things to set fire to.
God bless us we are alive
and possibly dangerous.

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