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Daniel Beauregard

THERE WAS A PLACE IN MY NECK WHERE MEANING ONCE STOOD

There are stones there many colored; so said the ancient one ⎯ our guide ⎯ before the hunt hacked his storied greatness into moss.

⎯⎯A piece of metal has burnt its way into my chest⎯⎯

A piece of metal — the smell — a bullet has burnt its way into my chest. Or something. The forest has burnt its way into my life. No. Something has pissed its breath into my lungs. Perhaps. Now hit the ground with a thud and they trampled me. Who could blame them. Hit the ground with a thud traced hooves into my snout, my muzzle side whole body, punched-through flesh. The frenzy. Trampled me, who could blame them? Far off the forest melts behind them; leaves scatter something. I sink into the ground. We are returning. My limbs thrust forward. I place them. Hooves. Find little purchase in the rotten muck. We persist, find the foothold and lift. Unsure we chatter our bones together and collapse. Our backwards knees. It isn’t good. The forest enemy. We raise ourselves. We slip, the forest finds us on its rotten floor again: the vegetal leaves that smell so close to sour but not yet quite. We feel ourselves being dragged into something. Or slipping. Slipping? No. Spilling. Escaping. Voiding ourselves. Voiding outwards. In the forest long ago before moss upon the bones of ancient the air running born we are alone. We were never running really. Or were we always? Where did we come from and why are we here, now? Born in the air. Sinking into death the forest floor. It wraps its vegetal glow surrounds us. We hear far off the smells rent the air. Far off where our others run, the air struggles to heave them up. Perhaps the forest thins where the herd runs now. No? Perhaps it is I who will help them escape. All slowing I move myself further into the trees. I will draw them to me, the hunters. I scrape at the ground in progress. Far off something like night, edging in to make it fade. Receding. The trees no longer beautiful but terrifying. Stripped of necessity: barren, charred. We have been successful in making it this far. Huddle now. Make it to the edge of nothing, no. Make it behind an area in the ground. The ground is sinking. We are falling away from the forest. It’s looming now, darkness. It is dark where we’re going; dark perhaps where we’ve been. Dew a remembrance: something one can simply smell and feel at home. If only. I cry but bubbles away my throat like the farting ground. There was a place in my neck where meaning once stood. The forest, the smell; it all at once overcomes our spirit. Will we remember this, once death consumes us? The forest, the smell. The hunt like it was. Forever. The hunt forever running, chasing into air. They will fall upon me then. The hunt. The makers of flight. For us? Perhaps they are the reason always running. The smell rents the air. Blowing apart the bark of those that live inside us. Our sisters born. Our brothers born. Blown apart eventually, when the air refuses them. Heavy we sink taken down, the vegetal state of our bodies. For when we stop running we die. Or no? When will we die I am dying. The stagnant water fills my hoof prints, tracing a trail back to when the dew was sweet. Back to the days we were a part of once. We were born into the pack, we think. How did we make it this far? If there was ever a place to run it is backwards, not forwards. Perhaps they’ve found the place where the forest ends. There are stones there many colored; so said the ancient one⎯our guide⎯before the hunt hacked his storied greatness into moss. Left upon the ground, grown green not bleach the sun forever divided upon the forest floor. We have worn our life apart. Pull the bark and sniff the sap; may it pay for us. The hunt comes closer. Twigs beneath. Twigs the forest floor. We lift ourselves up, head then neck then body then limb; we hardly can tell from life painting sodden ground below, our life once red when the sun went down. The forest at night. The forest at down. The hunt approaches; we smell their sour musk. Piss of death, clink of iron. Leaves dead tremble the forest floor; kick themselves closer to our death. We try to rise, slip, try again. It’s leaving us. Our stories float above our heads in darkness. No. Our vision fails; glows. No. Comes back now blue. Sunlight? I smell a sister in the air, one met long ago the ground. They wear her piss to drive us mad. I cannot away. We have prepared. Come, melt my bones with moss; bog them up. The air bore the smell of death times a thousand. Piss-bottled addlers. Green the dusk. Spare nothing. Ritual. Tie coils around the heart of space. Place us near the running water. They lift us up. Sideways. Upside down. Our molting heads brush the forest floor. We paint with life. The sun goes down. Our fake sisters crunch along beside us; chatter floods our softened ears. The air no longer cares. It’s our fault, not hers. Never hers. Stories flood our nostrils. We remember then forget. Our limbs. Hooves clack, tied together. The forest floor. Antlers. No moss. No. Never did we think it could turn that way, did we think our piss; we are covered in our piss. It matts the fur and dribbles off our snout. The sun is upside down. Green disappearing. Perhaps their flight has found the edge. The hunt. Is there a flock of them or have they fallen upon me. Beneath us they have placed an item to catch our leakage. Powerless to snort. Slip the life out of it, we’re ready. Come out then. Come then. Stop rustling direction. Forward leave. Come finish it. Scraping toward us. Sight depends on water we watch fill hoof prints; the mud spackle. Much like hunger this feeling. Or no? And then it comes glinting. We wish our brothers and sisters luck. The forest, green, the smell falls upon us. We struggle to huff and watch our breath disappear, the sun disappear, the forest, our smell. The hunt⎯the knife⎯ pierces us close by our musky parts — a history — comes scaling down, opening us up. Iron wets the forest floor; everything spills out. The rotting leaves. What is this death? The smell of death. The smell of shit.

⎯⎯A fly finds a resting place upon our rump⎯⎯

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Daniel lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of places including Ligeia Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, New South, Burning House Press, tragickal, Heavy Feather Review, Alwayscrashing, sleepingfish, Poor Claudia and elsewhere. His chapbook Total Darkness Means No Notifications is forthcoming from Anstruther Press in 2021 and he has previously published two chapbooks of poetry, HELLO MY MEAT and Before You Were Born. Daniel is also a co-founder of OOMPH!, a small press devoted to the publication of poetry and prose in translation. He recently finished a collection of short stories titled Funeralopolis and a novel titled Lord of Chaos and can be reached @666ICECREAM