Craig Finlay is a poet and librarian currently living in rural Oklahoma. His poems have appeared or will be appearing in numerous publications including, most recently, The Ilanot Review, Little Patuxent Review, Levee Magazine and After Happy Hour Review. His debut collection, The Very Small Mammoths of Wrangel Island, is forthcoming from Urban Farmhouse Press.
I have watched the armadillo slowly give itself back to the
earth each day on the way back from the woods when Lucy
stops to nose around it and hear the slow story it tells. I think
it is the same armadillo I watched shuffle around the grounds
of the hospital, stopping to pounce emphatically when it
found something good to eat. The moon was wonderful on
her plates while she was alive and now I don’t know the story
she tells Lucy night after night except to say she was here,
she was here, she was here. And I cannot say what story I
take, now that only the shell remains, refusing the world.
The past or present tense of her. Used to live, still here. This
morning, though, she was gone. Finally cleared by the
groundskeepers or carried off by something curious and full
of desire. And now there is only this poem I’m writing. I’m
hopeful for a resurrection. That when I leave and walk
outside for a cigarette she will be there, shuffling and
pouncing. Then I won’t have to decide. Then I won’t have
to think beyond the next thing in the grass worthy of a
pounce. It moves black and quietly in the blades. They shake
slightly for it. It makes a sound like ice falling from limbs.
Or a sudden splash in a dark lake. Distant keys turning
Some say the world will end in choir, others say it will end
in mice. Emily has stopped speaking to me and I think this
is the bit where the creek finds the marsh. All bullrush and
sinking boots and no hint of a current. I am thinking that the
forest sprites live in computers now. Forgotten bits of code
that find one another and dance a while. I am thinking of
painting a portrait of the poet with a blood alcohol level just
north of too far to come home. Opaque cup. A tree of shoes
in the ice storm. A scurry of young people in an ice storm
on their way to meet warmer things than I can still grasp.
They’re laughing as they slide around. They slip and spring
back with minimal consequence. There is a place in India
where people spend generations training trees to become
bridges and they grow stronger as they age, not weaker.