Excavations 17 · Doug Bolling

Each day an adventure in the story
Of yourself
So Auntie Louise was once fond
Of saying from her antique Morris
Chair in the sun deprived parlor.

A boy of maybe ten, I listened
Or didn’t.
Loved the peppermints she
Sometimes passed around,
The strange scent of the
Past she exuded.

Grown now and in charge
More or less of the 80 acre
Farm, I keep busy with cows
And chickens, the three fields
Of corn and bean, the small
Long suffering orchard where
Apples try to make it through
A season.

But I want to talk about the
Henhouse and a red fox
And what these can do to
An innocent/not so innocent
Sojourner who found himself
Astir right in their middle.

That July morning I headed for
The hens to drop off some feed
And do the usual look around.
What I found was three dead hens
And a bloody floor, a bend in the
Wire fence just big enough for
A fox to enter uninvited.

We’d been careful, knew the
Enemy was always around
Ready to grab and go.
But this time the system
Failed, badly.

I could see the plotline.
A blood trail led straight
To that fault in the fence
And on out through the
Red had made off with
One of our prides,
Took no prisoners.

No heavy thinking needed.
I took off after that chart
Of blood mad for a kill,
Or justice some might say.
You choose.
We’d raised generations
Of mother hens and their chicks,
Sold enough eggs to fill a room,
Loved those gawky, strutting
Beings like a bunch of angels.

A quarter mile on I caught up
With the last chapter in this.
County road 401 marked the
North boundary of the

There in the far ditch a
Wounded fox and the
Red smear of what
Had been the hen.
Some vehicle must have
Caught the pair in that
Pot holed strip of bad
Asphalt and worse

0ur hen was DOA but
Red still gasped and
Shuddered, let out
Small cries from
That greedy mouth.

What to believe,
What do.
I had come for revenge,
Mad with it, hell bent
To right a wrong, play
God. Or what.

Now a quivering fox
Seemed to hold me in
Its fading eyes as if to
Beg mercy.

Well. Crazily perhaps,
I saw myself along some
Deserted path half dead
From dying,
Hoping only for some
Stranger’s sudden hand
To bring me back to
More long days and
Nights, a dawn’s
Lifting light over east
Hills silken in their

I lifted up that blood
Drenched mess and
Turned back to where
I came from,
Back to where warmth
And bandaging and
Maybe a splint might
heal, turn loose a
Killer free to do his
Thing again.

So it was.

Doug Bolling's poetry has appeared in Posit, BlazeVOX, Redactions,
Wallace Stevens Journal, Connecticut River Review, The Missing Slate
interview), and Common Ground Review among others. He has received
Best of the Net and Pushcart nominations. and several awards, most
recently the Mathiasen Award from the University of Arizona's Humanities
publication. He has taught at several academic institutions and lives in the
Chicago environs.