GIRL AND VULTURE: SUDAN, 1993
In the dream he comes upon the girl and picks her up.
He kisses her head, wipes dust from her nose and mouth,
and sways as though she is an infant,
not a girl so close to death she attracts
the vulture who lands beside her.
In the dream, the application of what’s right
comes without thought or hesitation.
The vulture, who finds carcasses exclusively
by sight, will find another child, but he,
the man winning one small round of mortal combat,
is distanced from calamity just enough
to sleep undisturbed by the vision of children
stalking north toward the White Nile,
its water is cold and limitless.
Deer graze under dogwood.
When dogs charge, they scatter.
When they scatter they dredge
dogwood leaves through the weeds,
the field, the forest, then they’re home.
When the dog comes back,
we rub his head, his wet back,
then he’s off again, off to a lone crow
with a bad wing that won’t move off its back,
can’t lift it, can’t get him
off the ground and out of the way,
and now that the dog has the crow
in his mouth we yell, “Drop it! Drop it, now!”
But the dog doesn’t bend,
he shakes the crow until it’s dead,
until he breaks its neck.
The dog tracks back to where we stand,
sets down the dead crow, sits down
beside us, and we, husband and wife,
reach for the dog, the dog collar,
the back of his neck,
move to amend the living’s fall to fragility,
the desire of dog, bird, man, and woman
to subjugate one of nature’s crooked jewels.
There, in the sameness, is my love for you
and all unconscious carriers
of God’s ineluctable heartache.
Strummer Hoffston is a MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the recipient of a Writers’ Workshop Provost’s Fellowship. Her work has appeared in Salt Hill.