Black Friday Pilgrimage
Michael Dowdy

         Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory
       Monroe County, West Virginia

The shop for dressing game flashed through laurel,
our trail lost to rack and rump by the creek bank,
the Black Friday sun slashed by snow no match
for deer hanged and swaying from their hind legs,
a carousel the breeze rode round the shack.
Does and six-point buck steamed. Nothing else stirred.
The hacksaw and cleaver man must have dozed
as the red tributaries drained in ice,
the haunches smoking like dead volcanoes
not yet quit of the embers in their veins.
My father and I paid the flesh its price:
if naked, turn away or close the eyes;
if food, pucker the lips and bow in praise
of pulses felled to fortify your own. 

High above rose the shrine of Hanging Rock,
where hawk and eagle migrate north to south
and, legend goes, the outhouse on the ridge
has the best squatting view in the country.
That Black Friday the throne was frozen stiff
and we were weeks late for balds and ospreys.
Wind had whipped our cheeks red as Macy’s stars
when the observatory peeked through snow
three thousand feet above the spew of trucks.
Long ago I'd sold my twang for a song,
fleeing north from my father’s family biz,
yanking the surplus notes like wisdom teeth,
hoping the molt of my redneck sloughed off,
not knowing my hillbilly blood soaked bone.

I’d always had a problem with spitting.
Used to think it was cool then couldn’t quit.
At sixteen I spat at my father, rapt
with rap. My tongue froze in rigor mortis,
the icy sluice of shame lapping my cheeks.
Behind the cabin’s glass we watched flurries
jitter in the wind and crash on the panes,
their tags fleeting as the mall’s fashion trends
or my father’s and my groans at the luck
of the weather. A shame, he laughed, the view.
Shame costs, son, and mine won’t barter for shit.
     Oh father, forgive me for I have spit.
On Black Friday’s charade of hikes and hunts
for deer and deals, my must buy was blaze orange.

The fathers of loogie hockers require
ski masks and vests. If the box stores sell out,
a time machine would do the trick, with lights
to steer us from the trees. We’d land on top
of Hanging Rock in my sixteenth winter,
the stones leaning at forty-five degrees
into the wind, cocksure and benighted
as graves of Paleolithic rappers.
From there only the past would breathe,
the bodies of our former selves singing
with open mouths so every orb of spit
would dry before it entered the future,
where the present tense swirls in a white drift
of verbs: ascend, repent, descend, forget.   

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