Instinct – Ed Madden


My brother and his sons hunted ducks, end of the season,
the blind a pit sunk in the middle of a flooded field.


He said they didn’t have the right calls, not
what they were there for, but there they were, geese


flying straight at them, the line not broken.


Sometimes I return to the rice straw and ripple,
to the where-you-from, to gravel roads and drawn faces.


Morning light whitens the water, field of milk, that time
of year when everything feels like the husk of something else.


A field of spilled milk and no one crying. My mom says,


You’re just as bullheaded as your daddy.


The doctor told me two bones in my neck are fused,
stiff-necked, unbending, born like that—the cost


of having left, and something torn, a twist of wire,
some black tape and hope. A knot of words for my mother


when I, sometime, go back. The geese flew right at the pit,


he said, flew right at them, their guns lifted—like they’d
been there before, he said, before the hunters showed up.


The field is spilled milk, the light loosening the cold,
wings whistling in the air, whistling home.