Mercy

She spends the night with a man who once hunted deer,
who keeps squirrel meat

stacked in his deep freezer, the white ice
rising over red cubes like the animals'

fur as it returns. Cold night, she rolls closer to fit
the curve of his quilt-

slurred spine. She remembers
the patches' outlines: scattered houses snipped

from dead women's linen, those thin
A-frames. Better to snap

the neck of a shot deer than to wait for it
to slowly bleed. He believes this.

A sleepwalker, he often wakes
with a different woman's

head between his knees. He holds
her vertebrae in place as one hand

cups the jugular, the other seizes
the skull. He wakes to the dull warmth

of limbs kicking the sheets, to the scream
of a deer becoming a woman.

by Anna Journey

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