“The Jugular” by Karla Morton
You laughed when I said I got out of the truck,
pocket knife in hand, looking for the horse I just hit.
“And what would you have done with that?”
I would have wanted to end his suffering; to cut his throat.
“As if you ever could.”
I hope I could have done it, if I needed to;
if he hadn’t scampered off;
if he’d lain there, barely breathing in the ditch.
I hope I could wring a chicken’s neck if my children were hungry;
or wedge a rifle in the soft round ear of a calf,
half-mauled by coyotes;
or stand by your grandmother’s bed, like your grandfather did –
fighting the rest of the family’s riot for feeding tubes,
because she didn’t want them.
I’ll admit, I’ve grown up soft.
My poultry comes plucked and quartered from the grocery,
or fried up in the drive-through;
hot water flows at my touch.
But I can tell you, I like the sound my boots make
when they scuffle.
I pack a knife in my garter, a compass in my purse;
my phone holds the lunar calendar and Morse-code apps;
there’s a shovel under my back seat.
So, perhaps it’s time to reconsider; reassess,
even though I stand 60 pounds less beneath your chin.
Step back. Take another look.
Size me up again and decide
if I could find my way to the jugular.
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Karla Morton Artist Statement:
karla k. morton, 2010 Texas Poet Laureate, is a Councilor of the Texas Institute of
Letters and Texas A&M graduate. Described as “one of the most adventurous voices
in American poetry,” she is a Betsy Colquitt Award Winner, twice an Indie National
Book Award Winner, North Texas Book Festival Award Winner, and author of
eleven collections. She established an ekphrastic traveling exhibit pairing
photography and poetry, and has just began her historic National Parks Tour with
fellow Texas Poet Laureate Alan Birkelbach, with a percentage of the forthcoming
book sales going towards the National Parks.