“First Day of the Hunt”

Click here to listen to Paula Bohince read this poem.

The schools always close, knowing we’re so country all our boys will skip anyway,

and the valley rises together before dawn—

daughters pulling wool caps
past fathers’ ears, reciting the profound
and elemental list:

rifle, rounds, knife, rope,

only to send each heavy man to the woods
where he’ll slump the day in drifts
of solitude and prayer

while most deer stay down, evading
the unlucky, the night spent

visiting cousins: stroking curves
of antler, lengths of blood-stiffened fur.

Every year it’s the same
soft and deliberate snow prints,
the waiting—