The Difference

As a boy, he’d crouch like an Olympian
in the tenebrous belly of the garbage pit,
shielding the lantern’s nub of flame,
and stroking intermittently the hockey stick
he couldn’t see for darkness by his boot.
And when the denizens, bald-tailed,
all crept foolishly afoot,
he willed the lantern’s mantle fulgent,
closed his fist about the shaft,
and rising judged the sulphurous junkscape:
Hades descended into Hell’s dumpster,
come to wreak His glad reaping.
And oh the fullness of his purpose
as every heroed muscle inspired
the stick-blade scything down
through arcs about his aureoled head,
unsparingly exact on skull, on neck,
on back. In short, he made decisions.

And those who made escape still quake
in burrows deep below the refuse,
hissing stories of a deity implacable
who pitches from the black in scorching glory
to wield his crosier against poor sinners.
“Look,” squeaks one, “he cleaved me from my tail!”

Yesterday, as he stained the deck,
a cat leapt in the backyard,
its mouth aflutter with a bird beating
futile feathers at decisive jaws.
He sprang at the cat and lunged and snatched,
and weaved and dove in paired antics
across the yard, scrabbling to free
the bird from that suburban hunter:
the tabby bounding with feathered face,
the flap-winged, squawking sparrow,
and a white-haired man stumbling
in the measure of a harvested grace,
still looking to make a difference.

~ Mark Featherstone

Mark Featherstone’s work has appeared in Canadian and American journals, including Arc, The Danforth Review, The Mandrake Poetry Review, ChiZine, and HMS Beagle. Three of his poems were chosen for the anthology “Let Yourself Go” from Black Moss Press. Two Montreal presses have published original pieces including a broadsheet (Mechanicsville, Metonymy Press), a chapbook anthology (Playing in the Mud, Over the Moon Press) and a limited edition chapbook (Mechanicsville, Over the Moon Press). His submission “On the Way Out” was short-listed for the Acorn-Rukeyser Chapbook Competition in 2004, and his entry “Again by Flood” was likewise short-listed for the Fiddlehead Poetry Competition. “The Offer” was an Editor’s Choice in the Arc poetry competition of 2000. He currently lives in Singapore.

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