Portrait of a Future Grief, Erin Wilson

Philip Kobylarz, Left Stage Exit, Photograph



Portrait of a Future Grief


As I was stepping into the field,
a vulture was lifting its grave heft
from the boughs of bare aspens.

It was answering the same call
that caused me to ford the opening.
You see, I was learning death’s scent,

the old blood psalm the vulture had fed on
since birth. If I walked directly toward
the corpse, wind would pack my nose,

hair and clothes, with the roiling stench.
If I arced wide, approaching from up-wind,
I could manage to get close enough

before the air settled again and the gagging
commenced. Curiosity, this was my ticket.
My future suffering was only a dare.

The moose had become a sac of effluents.
Circling, from sovereign heights, the vulture cast
its hazy shadow like a nodule on an x-ray of lungs.

Erin Wilson


Review by Jared Pearce

We are often drawn to what will disgust or outright scare us, and this poem shows that longing wonderfully.  By the end (and in conjunction with the other poems here) we understand that the speaker is not just tracking down a dead moose, and not just detailing the curious affinity we have with the dead and dying and how we’re curious to see how life will end and death will deliver, but that there are real humans in the picture, which makes the animals real and, now, symbols.  It’s a fun twist at the end that both completes the poem and transitions to the next two.


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