He walked with his eyes toward the moon
and his hand upon the knife in his pocket,
thinking of his wife, who left him much too soon,
now embosomed in his heart, like a photo in a locket.
Out beyond the farmhouse and barn,
where the cows had laid in their straw bed
and the crows nestled among stolen strands of yarn,
in the field, she lay, three weeks dead.
He struck a flint to light a putrid candle
made of boiled fat from a black hound
and held his knife by its deer antler handle,
and slit one wrist above her unsettled mound.
The wind died and a silence befell the field
while the black earth blackened darker to soot
and stars and the moon and the clouds reeled
with the mania of such a diabolic ritual afoot.
He stayed in the candle’s light as the voices rose
all around him, in the dark of the isolated field;
groans and moans, shrieks, screams, and bellows,
but among them one cut clean through, shrilled.
She spoke to him: “You will lose your soul.”
Her voice tolled sharply like a funeral bell,
and he spoke: “Without you there’s nothin’ but a hole
worse than anything waiting for me in Hell.”
The many voices spoke as a choir together:
“If you wish to save her from the inferno
then you must willingly cut your final tether
and open your heart completely—then she may go.”
He heard the swelling of those bestial voices
like goats and cows, pigs and donkeys that brayed,
and he thought of his life, and all of his bad choices,
and with a simple slash he welcomed the trade.
She laughed, then, caterwauling into the night,
and the earth quaked, the grass burned,
a portal opened that eclipsed his tear-blurred sight
while a great fire rose in a pillar that gyred and churned.
The moon and the stars flickered and faded,
leaving all as tomblike darkness—all except
the blazing gate, like hellish flames braided
and toward which he was irresistibly swept.
His father found him at sunrise the next day,
limp and pale upon the scorched grave site.
Stooping, he picked his son up, looking with dismay
at the hoofprints, still burning bright.