Jonathan Louis Duckworth: Three Wendigo Poems for Haunted Passages

Haunted Passages: Jonathan Louis Duckworth

Wendigo III

Rasp of rawhide, knock of bone on hollow bone, clatter of loose broad teeth set in cervine jaw, jangle of beads of glass & obsidian & cowrie, sounds that fill your footprints like snowmelt. You know wendigo is following you.

keep walking.

Do not
look back.

rub your hands together—warmth will protect you.

Do not
speak—words become disaster now.

hold your arms out wide & spread your fingers
as if you too are potent with antlers.

Do not
pity the anemic growl of the gravepit
where his stomach would be.

bite your hand until everything tastes of copper.

Do not
turn around until you have heard him
stamp his hoof & flap his wings.

If you fail these steps,
wendigo will have you.

His wings enfold you. I am hunger, he will say, I am the quiet before & silent after, I am what swallows all delicate tenderlings that winter has not promised to the spring.

Wendigo IV

you hear It only once / dry rattle
of teeth & bone
outside your door
only an inch of wood / a membrane
of frosted glass between you
& the strangling cold
you close your eyes / see
your footprints leading out
into snow’s pale tongue
where It waits to embrace you

Wendigo V

Composed on the Peak of Lookout Mountain, New York

I was born on the mountain

what the papery birches left behind
I wrapped over damp muscle
to make a hide

I was born on the mountain

but many garnets I collected
& shaped into red fangs that rip & tear
& from pine needles made baleen
to parse the flies from the air

I was born on the mountain

but I lay still a decade
for moss & fungi to learn
my shape

I was born on the mountain

but I listen & learn what
stone air & water tell

I was born on the mountain

but now they come in teeming hundreds
with their sticks & picks & ropes
& maps that say nothing of me

Jonathan Louis Duckworth received his MFA from Florida International University. His fiction, poetry, and nonfiction appears in New Ohio Review, Fourteen Hills, Whiskey Island, Meridian, Tupelo Quarterly, Jabberwock Review, Superstition Review, Flash Fiction Online, and elsewhere. His chapbook Book of Never was published by Finishing Line Press.

Image: Justin Oliveira, Kickstarter for Wendigo Wood #1

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