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We Are Just Three Mouths

Today’s poem is "We Are Just Three Mouths," by Julia Bouwsma. Julia lives off-the-grid in the mountains of western Maine, where she is a poet, farmer, editor, and small-town librarian. She is the author of two poetry collections: Midden (Fordham University Press, 2018) and Work by Bloodlight (Cider Press Review, 2017) and received the 2019 and 2018 Maine Literary Awards for Poetry. Her poems and book reviews have appeared in Poetry Daily, Poetry Northwest, RHINO, River Styx, and other journals. She’s the Director of Webster Library in Kingfield, Maine.
She writes, “In late November 2014, a weasel got into our henhouse. The weasel killed a dozen hens over the course of a week, ripping their throats out and leaving their carcasses behind. Finally, after multiple failed attempts to live trap it, I was taking my dog outside to pee one evening when I heard a commotion from the henhouse. I ran back into the house, grabbed my .22 rifle, and burst into the henhouse to find an enormous white weasel wrapped around the throat of my favorite gray hen. It was the first time I had ever shot a living creature and, as the poem reveals, its death was not a smooth process. I wrote the first draft of this poem the very next day—as an attempt to try to reckon with my own accountability in killing it and with the ways in which horror and beauty are so tightly bound to one another in the work of farming, as well as to pay tribute to this stunning and brutal creature.”

We Are Just Three Mouths
by Julia Bouwsma

A rifle on my shoulder, I am in the henhouse again.
The scream is one pitch too high for human. The weasel
is a white scarf at her throat, pas de deux of feather and fur.
I watch through my gun sight, empty metal eye
inches from its shoulder of snow, blast that shatters any dance.
The weasel falls back, starts to rise, as if it were easy, one motion,
no difference between the hen’s blood in its mouth
and the red hole spreading its ribs. I step on it hard:
the flash of black eyes. It claws, bites my boot. We are three bodies
in soiled pine shavings, three mouths. The weasel winces, its eyes
close, open, his limbs stretch into the last hard act of breath.
The second bullet slips trembling from my hand. I drop the gun
hard, once, twice, but the weasel’s elegant neck won’t snap.
I find the bullet, reload, press into the pink-white fold of ear, pull.
Gunpowder in pine dust, a soft head slap. I reach down to touch
what I have done. I lift it by the tail.

“We Are Just Three Mouths” by Julia Bouwsma. Reprinted from Work By Bloodlight (Cider Press Review, 2017) by permission of Julia Bouwsma.