On a Ranch out Past Lakeland, FL


For Blake

By Jean-Luc Fontaine

i

Michelle and I take turns taking
pot shots at nothing—shotgun sneezing
outwards. We fire past the cabin,
near where the cattle
graze and ignore us.

A grey blur slides down
the hill and keels over.

We run up the slope only
to see a furled hare trying
to take its last terse breath. 

ii

Stretch marks dance right below
her midriff as Michelle carries
the hare back to the cabin. She

eases the beast on the table
like a small infant about to be
changed—as if easily bruised. 

I search in the corner
for a skinning knife. A moth
perches up on the wall—
Death’s tiny paper airplane.  

iii

Knife in one hand, 
tall glass of whiskey
in the other so my grip
will not be buttery.

iv

Splayed out on the table
—shrapnel struck the left thigh
and took exit out
the hare’s torso. I jimmy
the flesh until the abdomen
widens and reveals
its now loose baggage.    

v

Out rupture three fetuses.
Their curled bodies drip
like sweat beading
on my forearm.

I stroke
their bellies.
I cup
them in my hands.
I throw
them to the dogs, and listen

to the crack of their jaws
as they fight over scraps.

vi

Michelle refuses to eat
the meat, starves herself barren
on the rough grass outside.

vii
The morning sun smears
the skyline, and the large pitched
laugh of herons can be heard
throughout the cabin. I look

from the window of the spare room,
and see Michelle as she
kneels by the morning curdle
of the bank. Five wooden crosses

are laid out in front of her
looking like heaven’s white picket fence—
three for the fetuses
and two for her unexpected.

I want to comfort her, but I
know I reek of off-molasses. I know
I’d rather be alone and without prayer
between these four stupid walls.     


Jean-Luc Fontaine is a poet who currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida. His interests include naps and long bus rides. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rufous City Review, Naugatuck River Review and Apalachee Review