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Brandon Lopez is a Chicano writer, living and working in Portland, Oregon. He grew up in Maine. He often writes about the spaces between cultures, or the parts that more often go unseen. This is his first publication.


Tattoo stood in the cold autumn air

ink stained his skin like inflamed claw marks


Deer grazed crab apples in the pasture 

beyond the squatted tract of farmland


The thick pungent taste of venison 

taunted his desire


Felonies and the courts forbid him 



With a salt lick stuck under the tree, he climbed 

lumbering his bulk through the lower branches


The day, slate gray like jail walls 


Poised, he gripped a thick handled knife, 

blade bright under the pallid sky,  

smooth edge sneering violently


Deer emerged from the brush

cloven hooves touched lightly on 

the crisp fallen leaves


A buck crowned in furry antlers 

paused at the lick


Knife held high, Tattoo dropped 

stabbed hard into the shoulder

striking heart


Blood pumped thick from the wound 

as it kicked in spasm


Tattoo hugged the buck closely, like it was

his to possess, and it was 


We drove the backways of Maine


Down rural country roads littered with repair shops

that spilled rusted parts onto unmowed lawns


Forgotten churches, with white paint chipped onto

the ground below like fallen angels gathered in death


Her body sat nestled in the passenger seat

head turned to scan for deer in the open fields

hands tucked tight under her thighs like a little girl


The towns we passed, unchanged by the years

what looked like poverty was a simple approach to life

the libraries, post offices and churches

all looked like churches


Lakes, rivers and streams passed on both sides

as we meandered through the thick deer woods


Abandoned cemeteries sprinkled the shoulders of the road

small plots framed by mossy wrought iron fences

family plots of a few dozen headstones

forgotten names rubbed smooth by countless winters


Arriving at our destination, we stepped into the cold

hats pulled low, collars up, backs stiff against the wind

a simple nod of agreement put us back in the car


That was pretty

Yes it was


We drove the old highways back to town

past the lakes, rivers, cemeteries, spilled guts of repair shops

variety stores and churches


The silence cleaved us like the rivers that scarred the land


Harry drove down a pockmarked dirt road

headlights pitched as if at sea


Arm rested in the open window

cigarette pinched between fingers

The cool air chilled his feverish face

he drove until the road ran out

then pulled onto an overgrown shoulder

and tore a can from its plastic ring


His jaw set tight with despair

the can clanked against the floorboard at his feet


He didn’t look up at the stars he couldn’t name

or all the plants cataloged by dead men


Crickets ebbed and flowed

as if tugged by the moon

a bullfrog groaned for a mate


The smell of hay, light and sweet like his beer

mixed with his cigarette


A horse whinnied in the distance

Harry listened for the first time that night


The can fell with the others

cigarette clamped between clenched teeth

he reached for another beer and

grabbed the rifle racked behind his head

Two steps through tall grass bridged a shallow gully

Eyes adjusted to the dark

the rifle cracked as the horse dropped where it stood

the clamor in Harry’s head cleared


He scanned for another



Face rubbed with cold hands, thirst quenched

he drove home through the crisp night air


Men gathered in a stark garage to 

drink and take pills


Dale arrived late, having spent the day 

in the rushed cold of the north

with hopes to fill a freezer 

with venison


Inside the men relaxed against the 

violence of their daily lives

bottles passed between hands

scarred from work and fist fights 

pills swallowed whole or crushed 

and snorted with a delicate touch


A bare bulb cast ugly shadows as 

Dale sloshed like dirty bath water 

the room pulsed as he paused for footing 

His boots crunched the hard packed snow 

At his truck, the knife-sharp

air sobered him momentarily


Inside, rifle across his lap

Dale turned the gun in his hands 

showed the men his new toy


With a careless caress the rifle slipped

stock first against the floor

recoiling on impact

the bullet ripped through his jaw


Bone, cartilage, and flesh

scattered like deer in a field

Dale pressed his hands against 

the remnants of his face


A lone tooth sat perched on a shelf

as if placed carefully, like 

a trinket from a summer trip


The paramedics arrived as 

Dale scratched a note they 

didn’t bother to read


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