Season of the Sun-Bleached Mandible

I walk between dead bodies.

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiA goose in balletic repose,
quilted body folded in on itself, neck loose.

A raccoon decomposing on the verge

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiof gravel, stopped by a car in the night.
At first the bloody organ sacs and buzzing flies,

crows preening near the massacre with sharp beaks.

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiA grass snake flattened in the shape of a “W,”
monogram of belly scales and stripes.

A skunk with a stink and so manifest

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiI squeeze my nostrils tight.
The ones I don’t see.

My grandson wonders what it would be like

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiito meet his dead grandfather.
How would he be like to him?

I think of him in his plush robe, kingly.

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii“W” for William, Willie mostly,
although with the Scots pronunciation.

Wooly like huddled sheep on the braes.

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiWooly like weathered tartan, woven
in a warp and wet distinctly criss-crossed —

red as the sky, green as the stirred-up sea.

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiCould I divine him? Would he step out
from the shower, steaming, raking clean his blue-white skin,

coiled hair, grin like a hinge of tall teeth?

How he hated the dirty work,

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiyet he would have words for you, grandson,
and your father. Face forward, for fuck’s sake.

Keep your secrets to yourself.

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiGet our of the way of your own sledgehammer.
Words that stack like dry stones you understand

the weight of. None of us can escape ourselves.

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiHe shakes the rock dust from his hair
in ghostly prescience. How rock dust suffuses

the unorganized whole. How shifting is constant,

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieach carcass an accident of hubris,
dissolving pelts to an eerie planeness, from which

bones emerge: femur, ribcage, jaw —

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistarkness of an overexposed smile
around the axis of a joint. How glad he’d be

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiyou carry his bones.

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiHow rock dust resembles bone dust,
a fine sand of being.

Tori Grant Welhouse’s poems have appeared most recently in in HerWords and Chestnut Review, and she was a runner-up for the Princemere Poetry Prize. She won Skyrocket Press’ 2019 novel-writing contest for her YA fantasy The Fergus and Etchings, and a 2020 poetry chapbook competition for Vaginas Need Air. Both are available on, Amazon, and at indie bookseller Lion’s Mouth Bookstore. Tori is an active volunteer with Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.

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