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(Virginia, 1847)

When the bucks bolted their night shed

we saddled up, carbines and whips

handy. It was a fine hour

for hunting: low quarter-moon,

mares snorting the soft velvet way

that mares do; hounds hock by hock

on the trail.

They didn’t get far.

Surrounded by torch-flare the pearls

of their eyes shone back flickers.

Horseflesh circling

we lashed but used

cladded butts sparingly. No

need to maim

except by example – value

wants to be saved. It’s known

what’s required to avoid wasting

worth: each shred of resistance

crushed like campfires and drowned.

If she’s slow to the task,

beat her down.

When there’s dust

on the floor or a leaf goes

unpicked, or the soup arrives cold

or a garden's weed-grown, or an

insolent stare gives you fleas

in the ear -- beat them down. An ember

that smolders

will soon be ablaze. Crush crush these

at birth to preserve ordained days:

our broad-planked domains dressed with

silver and glass, oiled highboys

that shimmer in chandeliered dusk

cool hoopskirt verandahs (that

lavender musk!).

Nothing in Scripture suggests

otherwise. The precepts are clear

about Ham serving Shem – a rule

handed down since the time of

the Flood. Order means ordered:

an ironbound decree blocking small-brained


from rising to prey.

Born to this, I sleep well.

Though hooves beating past

conjure flame-lit

dark faces, that glimmer

in strange and unusual


Version first published in Rat's Ass Review, Winter 2020

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