"Possum Generations" by Caleb Smith
As I go on unnoticed under the clouds
And back onto the logging path
Toward home, I stand at a fork
Beside a rusted vine of barbed wire
Wanting, for whatever reason
(For only a breath) to see myself at seven
Coming upon this spot
Stopping in the same trough of trail,
Eyes looking into a scaffold of trees—
Finding a possum someone strung up
As a warning in a low branch, dead & rotting. I remember
How evenly the skin decayed
Over the jaw
Exposing a wide grin, a laughter—
The body stretched into the outline of sorrow
A broken branch stabbed through
Its side. Dust & fur shed from vertebrae
In summer’s flat light
When I knew little of death—
Only the color it made of bones,
Opaque claws turning turquoise
Before being changed altogether
Into slivers of smoked glass.
And the naked tail
Stiff and furless
Was not terrible & grotesque
But (became beautiful)
A fine lace spun in the wind
The body untouchable
As the night sky.
Always there would be
Something in the bend of that shagbark—
A recess carved from memory
(Where the animal eroded—
A smile unchanged for months.)
I walk ahead until in the distance my porch light
Casts a glow, whorling against the fog
Like a lullaby to no one.
It’s almost winter
Frost covers the wooden steps.
Overhead the constellations are recognizable.
I can hold them one at a time
On the flat of my hand—
Light years scaled down
Across my knuckles.