Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Dreaming Back the Wild

by David Memmott

I am not a hunter
I am a killer
Stunned and still
in sudden headlights
my victims’ end seldom comes
from a clean blow

The doe’s unblinking nod
asks that I finish the deed
Instead I leave her broken at the crossing—
an unintended consequence
She never leaves me now
Each twilight she leaps onto
the roadway from a tangle of Dutch elm
to fool me into a dangerous swerve

The nocturnal badger never leaves me
He was startled from the irrigation ditch
by the freight train’s scythe
of light, blasted from cover of wheatgrass
onto Highway 30 right under
the wheels of my red Corolla
I still hear the bump of the tires
without a break in momentum

The bear cub near Mt. Vernon never leaves me
Dropped like a black thought
off a steep roadcut right into
the bumper of our blue Civic
She bounced off still scampering
but the wild scent left our yellow lab
whimpering in the backseat
afraid to lie down

I dreamed the cub alive that night
heard her crying like a sick baby
in a deep canyon drenched with moonlight
her mother still licking
the wounds

They never leave me, the roadkill,
all those crippled when my machine failed
to stop—smell of burnt rubber and hot asphalt
sound of steel crushing bones
of ground squirrel
mallard duck
night owl

If I were a hunter, their deaths
would be honored with intent
not shamed by messy mistakes
that will rise one day and judge me
by the dried blood on my wheels


—From Memmott’s collection of poems, Giving It Away (Wordcraft of Oregon, 2009); republished here by author’s permission

SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

David Memmott

is the author of six collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, and two novels, including Canned Tuna, a Vietnam-Era fabulist anti-war novel which is forthcoming in 2017 from Redbat Books’ Pacific Northwest Writers Series. His poetry collection, Lost Transmissions, was published by Serving House Books (2012) and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. He is a Fishtrap Fellow, Rhysling Award winner, recent Playa Resident, and recipient of three Fellowships for Publishing from Literary Arts, Inc., for his work at Wordcraft of Oregon, the press he founded in 1988. He serves as a consulting editor for Phantom Drift: A Journal of New Fabulism and lives in La Grande, Oregon.

Featured Artist in SHJ:16

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury