The Original Instructions for the Perfect Preservation of Birds &c.

by Carey McHugh

selected by Rae Armantrout


Clarity, now and again, hems us in overhead
like a cylinder up and slow, or from below,

awareness muscled loose runs fox-sized, momentarily
red. We are forbidden during working hours to consider

headwaters, knotted fillnet threads, the pale setback
of salmon. Though farther north the banks are wide

with drought. We have stopped believing in doubt,
have learned to measure heft in tonnage and lined sack.

Among us someone has singled out monotony, locked
it in, dropping as we assemble, as if from hand or eye

a boxed rhythm we are fighting. All night belted here,
fingers loose on bolts and cobs. The stale business of tackle

to sift through. Here the sick collect. And the slack strain
of the jagging wheel rolls tongueless in its kick.

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