The Taxidermists Wife

All day my husband works

alone in his studio,

works with his dead animals.

Behind his shut door

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a hammer coughs, the sound

of pliers clipping something

off, in half. Some days

I only see his back, hunched

over his worktable as he bends

the wing of a barn owl

just so. Some days

only the outline of his body

when he enters the bedroom,

my shadowed husband,

telling me he's almost done

with the grizzly. All night

I feel the great bear standing

at our bedside, paws raised,

paws that once could swipe

trout from a see-through river.

Yes, my hand used to reach

for my husband like that,

his body awakening

in my palm. Now, something

else: my fingers freeze

above his shoulder, stiff

as the blue jay on the mantle

above the fireplace,

the memory of flight

drained from its wings.

Reprinted from Long Beach poet David Hernandez's A House Waiting for Music (Tupelo Press)

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