When the War Found Me

I hid in high grass, resting
my head on a picnic basket full
of silverware and napkins, the blood
purling through me in long warm
rivers and my boots lying nearby,
ugly and unlaced.

I was digging my fingers
into the dirt up to the last knuckle
and drawing them swiftly out;
all my chores were finished
and so, woozy from waves of sunlight,
I satisfied a longstanding urge
to discover how nightcrawlers feel
on being plucked to feed fish.

I reclined at the base of a tree
and whittled a malformed elephant
with a blunted pocketknife.
I was shirtless and self-conscious,
feeling as I often did
that someone – some stranger – lay
stretched out on a limb not too high
above me, observing my leisure.
I still felt, then, that others watched me.

I was halfway across a field,
halfway to the house after a day spent
searching a neighboring town
for the owner of a dog that had dragged
its swollen belly to our front door
and fallen down, its dry tongue leaving
no trace on the wood.

My family was calling out news of a birth
from the porch; in their excitement
they had forgotten to turn on the lights
and I had to make my way to them
by following their voices
through the fathomless night toward home.



Jeffrey Winter has been published in The Collagist, Pif Magazine, Eunoia Review, and elsewhere. He lives with his family in Hockley, Texas.




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