by C. Boyce McKay
and hard by the trail of black smoke
that smelled like the tannery across town,
the little boy was beginning to figure things out.
Yesterday before dark, Daddy
brought the boots, polished a deep oxblood,
and set them–
Trigger proudly painted on the sides–
under the tree. Then
he had to go home.
Mama announced cowboy boots pinch your toes.
Her new boyfriend said so.
She dragged brush to the burn pile,
struck a match,
and hurled the boots in the flames.
Sole pressed on sole.
Melting and streaking polish gagged her.
Every few minutes,
with all the eloquence a four-year-old
the little boy begged,
“Please, Mama, please.”
Smoke hovered contentedly,
like wild horses milling and grazing in the scrub
until they smell trouble.
Holding still, quivering,
they receive the arrows in their necks.
Too close to the pile, the little boy gagged
the sadness that was Trigger,
bridled, bit in mouth,
waiting with no protest for the knacker.