Cleaning the Stonecat

by Ruth Moritz

Fisherman Finds Man’s Body At River’s Edge . . .
“I walked into him on the bank,” he said.
So many bones to clean I should have
just left it behind – that fish – but no
it was something about the slitting (there
behind the gills) seeing air capsize like
lament and final breath unstring itself
through shivering grass

which kept me until suddenly the light
was gone and I stumbled into him
the way one wakes in the center of a dream
too late to turn and go back to the minute
when sleep gives way and the mouth opens
for some true prayer

Now these evenings settle in
like bottom feeders sinking
as I erase whole days to see
other than absence cast in the arc
of escape his ribs cradling
the night’s sudden wind

In the distant hills
A coyote laps the silence
for the very bone of its cry
a night hawk hooks the air
with its precisely honed dive

I lie awake till the light breaks in
scaling my skin through the maples
I turn toward my woman
underbelly of her breath holding me
buoyant until I reach to touch –
and everything collapses again
deflated and white as a sigh

Beyond the reach of my arms
the river snags on then runs
with a line in and out and in and
gone and finally – like a mirage
the rushes bend a body
curves like a crescent
lungs beginning to form
like gloves around its heart.

Stonecat_Moritz_photo_lg-300x300Ruth Moritz was the 2009-2010 Poetry Fellow at Wichita State University and received an MFA in Creative Writing from WSU in May, 2011. Ruth is an installation and graphic artist, writer, and educator. She is the director of the Salina Spring Poetry Reading Series in Salina, Kansas. Her poetry has received an AWP Intro Journals Award, A Ploughshares New Voice Award, a Holt Prize in Literature, and an essay received the Isotope Prize for Creative Non-Fiction. She has recently finished her first manuscript, Prodigal Light.

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