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North of lumberless land,

we made the animals fight for us.

Sore warped beasts pinched off

the rag-and-bone rack, ones that

bit by barbed bit were forced to

fisticuffs in the scrub slump of hills.

With a hairline rapture these animals

came and went about our days,

leaving their young to defend

the palaces they were forced from

for us. These carousel mammals walked

skewered to the pole. With forepaws

in kid gloves they pricked ears when

tinder sticks lapped the brass-green

kettledrums, drums that laid down the miles

to their relevant demise.

After rock-picking, the fields

were pocked. My uncle with a hazel switch

kicking his mule's hide. My uncle

after twenty more one-mores, his

hat-hidden forehead facing hindsight

as he ox-eyed the ten-ton dewline

that girdled the drumlins. His

cat-o'-nine-tailed spine

humped along the timber-slab paths,

his blinkered mule craning at the headlands;

his pelt hides bone anchor points, marrow levers,

sanguine pulleys. An oilcloth dropped

on his doily-thin, God-given name.

And that's our house, dog-eared

by a balepick hooked in the gatepost

like a tongue licked on winter tin. From

a Caesarean cloudbelly, grey hounds of rain

tear messenger pigeons down to half-tilled fallow.

From the crown of the fox tower I pull my scope

from its rat-hide case, come in close on Uncle,

that mule under his loins scraping home

in ankle drags. The gully was as far as I got

by eye. The rest I only heard,

the noise I'm writing to forget

as the barren hounds got onto him.

Crown Land

Jeramy Dodds

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translated from the Ukrainian written by
Natalka Bilotserkivets