Head in a Cooler

The wooden smell of bourbon climbed
up the back of my throat and stopped
sinus high when Brendan said
“there’s a pig’s head in that cooler”

I’d been about to tell the story
of when we turfed a Church of Christ
and then a high school football field
drawing deep brown trenches

“It’s been in there for six days”
His skeptical eyes squeezed tighter
“Maybe ten” the whiskey making
math hard but the decision easy

We walked out into a field
into the dark, up a hill
whose arc carried us out of the world
into a simple black sky

The mud grabbed at my canvas shoes
glad to grip and keep the left one
restitution for the Church of Christ
Brendan unhindered holding the cooler

me still sliding in the mud
like a lobotomized calf
I said “I feel like the amputee
in the hotel hot tub”
not a proverb I ever heard

The top of the hill, the smell clawing
the cooler’s lid, the mud thinking
“I could go for a pig’s head”
The shoe whetted its appetite

Brendan flipped the lid off
and dumped the head into the mud
and we ran from the pursuing smell
the mud eager to keep us back

the smell carried a stone crock
brimming and slopping over the side
full of a kimchi made from sin
made from every last sin

and we didn’t make it
the smell caught us
tore off our arms
scattered us across the field

the smell hangs in the field still
floats diffuse like an amputee
in the hot tub at a Holiday Inn
or Best Western where his feet
and calves have drifted away and might
be found on the ceiling or in the sauna

Head in a Cooler

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