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The Promise
by Wade Dinius

Unraveling before me from a riot of shade
A tangled frieze of black upon black
Sow-bear with the great shambling gait
Loose-boned her breath laced in huckleberry

Attempting in vain to dampen my throttled heart
Her flat head sways heavily before me
With curled lips and wriggling nostrils
And rolling eyes ringed in white rinds

"Am I standing on your rifle?"
My knees kiss the earth and we are level
I gaze into her small pig eyes
"Yes. Your pads are pinning the gun."

"Is the rifle for me? Where did you find it?"
An overhead squirrel cuts spruce cones
They thump the earth rousing germs
"Yes. It's for you. I traded for it in the town."

"Do you know there is a boar bear larger than me?"
She lay in the style of a comely sphinx
Oil and gunpowder kneaded her deep nostrils
"You will find him hunting elk calves in the meadow."

"I was told sows have sweet fat from eating termites."
Enraged and terrified red squirrel bounds past us
My eyes pitch gray to the cloud smeared skies
"No. Boars taste sweet from eating soft-boned cubs."

"Will you waste my grease on dry wagon axles?"
My eyes snap back to those of the cub-less sow
A thick breeze tightens my now bared chest
"No. I'll chink the ribs of my daughter with your grease."

The cradle of ribs over my dark liver abruptly flex
Sow-bear's pad is whorled in leather pebbles
She measures me with firm shoves
A decision strobes across her too-small eyes

"You may now touch me with the rifle."
The loaded Winchester lies over my palms
Its bluing rubbed from lever to muzzle
The rifle fiercely touches sow-bear's shoulder

Red squirrel burst its brain hoarding cut cones.
Boar-bear shat through all of his cubs and calves.
Sow-bear chinked my daughter's ribs with grease.
Winchester was traded for new wagon axles.


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