Christopher Reiger

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from the chapbook SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME GROUND (August 2013)

Solstice

Born shortly after the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice, on one of the year’s darkest days, I’m accustomed to quiet, contemplative birthdays, and my thirtieth was no exception.

After waking, I drove a short distance from my parents’ house to a place where I’d several days before noticed a deer carcass dumped in a roadside ditch. The rib cage had been picked clean by scavengers and, despite the chilly, wet weather, ants and other insects had completely emptied the eye sockets. Two of the animal’s legs were torn away, gnawed on, and some distance from the rest of the remains.

My choice of subject intrigued the few motorists that passed. Their cars slowed to a crawl as they peered through rain-streaked windows, concerned eyes moving from the rotting mass of flesh, fur, and bone to me, hunched over my draped camera in the cold drizzle. Hoping to allay any misgivings, I smiled cheerfully and waved.

Later, in fading afternoon light, I stood on the home dock and surveyed the marsh and estuary while my father plucked and gutted three mourning dove he shot in a friend’s field. The air was humid and chilly. I held open a plastic shopping bag and my father deposited the cleaned bodies of the little birds, one after the other. Some crows called from the southwest, and an impressive flight of black ducks passed overhead on squeaky wings.

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