Exquisite Corpse - Issue 4
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by Cathryn Hankla

There's the intermittent wail of a truck horn-ooga, ooga-followed by a pause in which the sound almost dies, hesitates, then wails again, filling the valley, bouncing like a body on a trampoline off the surface of the creek up to my door. If the door happens to be open, the sound barrels right in, a nosey neighbor, an uninvited guest overstaying. I used to wonder if cows were somehow being herded to this repetitive, arrhythmic beat, but now I know it is the fifteen year old son, a twin once caught too long in the birth canal, who will never walk upright or speak an intelligible word.
       There's the rev of the father's motorcycle that never leaves the shed. Every Sunday morning the roar erupts like a demon chained in a dungeon, sputters and rages within the uncertain confines of its ramshackle hell. The shed's pocked roof is held up with muttered prayers of rotten and uneven boards through which the light of day, like kudzu, creeps.
       For a while there is hammering when the father loses his job again, but nothing ever appears to have been altered or repaired and even the asbestos siding seems to be wearing thin.
       There's the blare of the healthy twin sister's heavy metal like a meat saw punctuated by the hearty hacks of a heavy hands cleaving the slabs, tenderloin from the sinew of the hindquarters, roast from the rump.
       There's the crunch of gravel beneath her boyfriend's pickup and the slamming of doors leading up to the porch where the peeling front door opens and she runs out to meet him when her mother and older sister are still at work and her father's out felling any stand of trees he can find.
       Squeals of delight or fear are followed or preceded by certain unidentifiable whacks. Sometimes I think I can hear the padding of small feet on the beaten down earth of their yard that no longer supports a single living shoot of green. I think I can hear a splinter piercing the not yet toughened hide of the youngest grandchild's feet. I have seen the carcasses of hogs swaying from giant hooks under the glinting cold sun.
       There are endless rounds of barking dogs, like sirens, shattering the comforting country blackness during dark phases of the moon. These dogs that roam the woods, predators that can bring down a deer in its tracks, howl when pained by brief separations from the snarling wild tract around them, and have rent their chains and sunk their teeth into passersby, been banished by the courts but afterwards replaced by equally cursed curs.
       And one day there's the unambiguous blast of a shotgun and silence inside the house when I knock on the door.


Negative History
Texas School Book Depository NEW BOOK! PROSE POEMS!

A Blue Moon in Poorwater
Learning the Mother Tongue

Links: www.hollins.edu

Email: Chankla@hollins.edu

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