This morning smells of wet iron.
The air tastes of chew-worn liver and blood.
All night we back-tracked into the dark
purple-brown and red-brown shadows
down into the thick wood, cautiously stepping
over the headless rotting auburn carcasses
of four moose: A cow, yearling twins, a calf.
We searched the decaying leaf-strewn
forest floor for the rack of the bull.
No sign. Damn him!
He escapes every time. Still,
now something new can begin.
Emerging from the old
blood-heavy shadows, the dense dark
absorbing all color and sound,
we arrive at a pink dawn-lit ridge
overlooking that gully of death.
We know the cabin here
is ours. But someone’s left
the sofa sleeper rummaged, packages
of ground meat souring in the frig,
a bin of putrefying cucumbers and cabbage.
As we begin to clean away the rot
a stranger comes to warn us.
Higher up this mountain, deeper
into the forest lives a Red Prince
who believes this house is still his.
Shelly Norris currently resides in the woods of central Missouri with her husband John, two dogs, and seven cats. A Wyoming native, Norris began writing poetry around the age of 12. As a single mother of three sons, Norris had to concentrate on achieving an education and beginning a career to sufficiently support the family. Early in this journey it became clear that pennies from publishing poetry would not feed and shod hungry barefoot boys, so she necessarily dedicated her time and energy to building a teaching career. Meanwhile, working in the shadows grading sub-par essays, and editing for other writers, she has been slow to send forth her own writings into the cold world of rejection and possible publication in obscure volumes. One who struggled furiously with the art-life balance, Norris knew her destiny to be—like Burroughs, Bukowski, Stevens, and Wilder—a more dedicated and widely published writer later in life. While pecking away at various essays, short stories, and a couple of novels, Norris is wrestling a pile of about 100 poems into cohesive chapbooks and manuscripts embodying the vicissitudes of unrequited love and loss, dysfunctional wounds, healing quests, and the role of cats in the universal scheme.