by allen braden
Once a practice handed down,
sticking its throat now frowned
upon by most sportsmen. Blood
will take care of itself. Just aft
of the breastbone with a blade
three whetted inches or more,
cut and continue as if unzipping
the abdomen which splits open
like a satchel packed neatly
with the contents of a lifetime.
From the unexpected profile
of a liver came Roman prophecy.
Imagine your own portents.
To empty the cavity with ease,
you may tip the carcass downhill.
Take care though not to nick any offal.
Into the next tiny room, carve a portal
when servicing the lungs, the heart
which loves to spoil if left intact.
Sever arteries and windpipe. Remove.
Let the buck’s antlers alone,
they’ll work as handles later
or tie a rope over the skull’s base,
a half-hitch around the snout.
Now get your rope or chain out,
hoist over a nearby branch or rafter.
Like a lover’s stockings, the hide
tugs off. No need for a knife.
Missed point to call this woods-
dressing undressing, instead of
to gut, disembowel, eviscerate.
At last you may separate
the liceless cape and head
from the body if you wish
or saw the crown off its skull.
With sinews and veins stripped
naked of such supple buckskin,
with a hatchet or cleaver,
split sternum, lengthwise,
in two. Pelvic girdle likewise.
Call this the H-bone and crack it
smack-dab down the center
to invent your own alphabet
for dialogue between the dead
and living. What does a blade
whisper to flesh but appetite?
Along a line envisioning the spine,
a hacksaw answers. Other bones
prove easy, especially the hinges
where hooves are defined
from each limb’s articulation.
With dead weight, the gantry
squawks. Never you mind
any sound but your own deliberate
breath. Quarter what remains
into shoulders, saddle, haunches.
Identify the use and cut of each:
neck and chuck, flank and shank,
the meaning drained away returns.
Next, wrap each with foil tight
for flavor then paper against frost.
Cold or salt or smoke cures most
kinds of impermanence for a time.
Treat with an iota of respect.
Collect what you’ve broken apart
and spoken into being. On thick white
butcher’s paper, mark your name.
“The Venison Book” was first published in A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood.