To Keep Away Crows Feet
I watched a dozen red wing black birds
fight over a single maggot in the church parking lot
as funeral barkers repeated the priest.
The birds smeared that crawler into a grease
to bake on the blacktop. Maggot resin
waxed their beaks. Soon I will gather fiddle head ferns
and place their fuzz on my tongue.
I thought about paving my driveway,
left it dirt instead.
I won’t reseed the lawn either.
I can smell the bog’s breath.
Thickets are not fallow.
Last winter I crept to the crawlspace
slept away four moons. When I awoke
I could only stomach tubers and a few berries.
But I wanted meat in my mouth.
Mayflies hatch and we tie bait
to match. Fingertips gaunt and sharp
from feathers and thread, a tight quilt
knit to moisten trout tongues.
Fly rod flits cast spells over swamp streams.
I do not understand trout rising in the thaw
but I damn sure know the comfort
in the underbelly of a bog.
Worms and maggots ask questions
all winter long between roots and decay.
I plug my ears with mourning dove songs.
I tilt with the earth away from the sun.
Together we burrow blindly
like voles chase winter grubs.
If we traveled like birds we’d grow fat and pretty.
My hands would soften.
I’d moisturize my crows feet and fallow heart.
At every funeral I’d say the same thing.
I’d knead spruce sap against my gums
and ask the needles to have mercy on my tongue.
Tyler Dettloff is an Anishinaabe Métis, Italian, and Irish writer, professor, musician, gardener, and water protector raised on the edge of the Delirium Wilderness. He currently lives in Gnoozhekaaning (Bay Mills, Michigan) and teaches College Composition at Lake Superior State University. He has earned a B.S. in English and a dual track M.A. in Literature and Pedagogy from Northern Michigan University. His work has been featured in Voice on the Water, Crab Fat Magazine, and Heartwood Literature Magazine. Mostly, he enjoys walking along rivers with his wife Daraka and through swamps his dogs Banjo and Fiddle.
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