The Smell of a Dead Buck’s Bones

Tracy Gold

She knows the smell of a dead buck’s bones:
it is the smell of burning leaves;
of the red jacket covered with white horse hair, mud and sweat;
of the stagnant water pooling in the stream she’s trotting by
when her horse spooks
at the dead buck.
Thin grey antlers jut out of his coated head,
crushed against his ribcage.
His eyes—still glassy
stare into the empty skeleton.
His hind end lies a few strides beyond his head,
legs spread out in the pose of a fully extended run,
as if his spine
split mid-leap.

She knows the smell of a dead buck’s bones:
it is the leather of the brand new Mercury Mariner
that her father
shot himself in.
The bloody parts were replaced
and every day now, she drives it to the barn
where she rides through fields of
dead bucks, burning leaves, and stagnant water.

She doesn’t know how he died.
Was he hit by a car, left to drag himself to the field,
almost reaching the forest?

Did he sell his liquor store only to crawl
from the bed to the couch and back again,
hitting his wife and screaming at his daughter
between drunken stupors?
“I hate my father”
she would say,
before he died.

She was quiet, at his funeral:
the smell of a dead buck’s bones,
burning leaves, and brand new leather.

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