Kill Site

The tufts of grey fur lie on the spruce-lined path

like a taxidermist’s slough, an afterlife in the works.

Look closer and you’ll see shards of ivory bone,

bits and pieces of what once was scurry or slide.

Kill site, tableaux vivant, chills turning into


second thoughts. Your eyes stray to the orange

lichen on the limestone, captivated more

by living chemicals than death’s debris.

What if these were human remains, a corpse,

cadaver? A finger, perhaps, on the verge


of shrivel. Or the custard cup of an ear,

ready to spill a whole chorus of rain.

Picture stumbling across an entire torso;

not even the Venus de Milo that blatantly

pale. Would you scream a little, let shock


paralyze until the blue between the fans of spruce

reminded you the sky is climbing still,

maybe even a raven with a missing tail feather,

a wild crease in the utter flatness of recognition?

The next turn in the path is insistent. Snapping


sound in the distance. You are most alive

when you don’t know what’s going to happen

when the stilts of the heron suddenly unfold

into parachutes of wings. Around the bend,

a shrew becomes a momentary glimpse,


something that will suit your here-and-gone

relationship with time. The greyness

at your temples flashes silver as vision

darts into the forest, a shard of self-

awareness like a bone stripped to its ghost.

Barry Dempster, twice nominated for the Governor General’s Award, is the author of sixteen books. In 2010, he was a finalist for the Ontario Premiers Award for Excellence in the Arts. A new collection from Brick Books and a novel from Pedlar Press will be published in the fall of 2013.