14 | raegen pietrucha

the art of taxidermy


Better than dead, the toad’s body now rests –
a perfectly starched collar
curved on the desk.

His remains, a leather testament
to my craft, feel lighter
and drier to the touch

than the scourge who belch
and groan all night, clog
up tires with their viscous insides.

This tiny sir
is perfectly processed,
his hind legs crossed

like a salted pretzel. Look
how the water adorns
his smoothed hide in precise

white spots. And his chest continues
to hold breath, some secret or bold
song that might project endlessly

like time. While his former horde, outside,
slaps and sticks together in filth
until their flimsy limbs give in,

this toad sleeps – marble eyes
peacefully open, without a want at all,
glossed in a flawless shine.



what happens to a place


The sky appears white
in the picture of Illinois
no matter how blue it was

that day you stood in the field
of the farm you grew up on.
You remember how, in your youth,

you’d mow around
the barn that hovered red
and whole over corn rows.

This was before your BB gun,
before you shot the gauges off
the tractor, before you left.

There were animals you’d throw rocks at,
a creek you’d kick up with your feet.
Now there’s just your uncle, who stands

by the bonfire he made for no reason
from overgrown tree branches,
rotted wood from the silo.

We sift our way through waist-tall grass.
It slumps beneath us, then rights itself
as if we’d never passed.

We hear humming and wonder what rules the ground,
but it speaks in a code we don’t understand
now that your uncle no longer tames it.

We’re startled by a noise from the barn,
then realize another plank dove
from the roof onto the broken plow.

We hear its brief sigh,
recognized as nothing
that craves human caring.



raegen pietrucha writes, edits, and consults on professional and creative bases. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University, where she served on the staff of Mid-American Review. Her creative work has been published in Cimarron ReviewPuerto del Sol, and other magazines. Visit her at raegenmp.wordpress.com.