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Inner Workings, a poem by Mathew Early

Inner Workings
by Matthew Early

                         —for Dad

You taught me to skin squirrels
by the time I turned four:

Knife-slice down the belly like
scissors through wrapping paper.
Tear guts from shell,
make the inner workings forget
they ever needed to be hidden.

I would, not of want,
but it made you smile
bigger than the splitting pelts.
So big, pride flowed
like squirrel blood
from the corners of your mouth.

Your words never failed
to drought my eyes:
We’re all wired different,
and there’s no shame in that.

The woods were your church,
so I’d go on our hunts:
October swelling,
squirrels gnawing hickory
from stem in the treetops
like some drunken Morse Code.

I never told you
I hated the ease of it all:
How they’d fall like skydivers
sans grace and chutes,

but I know you could tell,
that you were hurt
when I didn’t want my camo
dirtied with dead blood—

and I forgive you for feeling guilty.

Matthew Early is a poet from Columbus, Ohio. He holds a BA from Muskingum University and is currently pursuing his MFA in creative writing at Butler University. He is the recipient of the 2018 Beulah Brooks Brown award in poetry. His work has also been featured in several literary journals including: the Flying Island through the Indiana Writers Center, Barren Magazine, Ghost City Press, and others.