Sunset, Before

by Saleem Hue Penny

There are beasts across town wielding torches,
covering their cowardice with hoods.
Blood-shot eyes huddle in the September shadows,
preparing to follow their fear down winding dirt roads,
whooping like possums,
pausing to piss on the azaleas at your gate,
before smashing in your door.

A tornado of tobacco spit, hatred unfurled.

My love, I must leave here before sunset.
Find a foothill to climb,
make fox tracks
sideways and backwards,
disguise the scent these bloodhounds are bred to crave.

Crouching in a ditch amidst deer droppings and bloated bullfrogs,
I will hold my ground.
Protect this forgotten moat.
Even as the moon reveals the briar traps I set,
and the southbound wind shifts leeward,
I will steady my hand.
Reach for the pile of rocks
stacked like the pancakes we shared
on our secret anniversary two weeks ago—
ready to hurl each stone towards their salivating jaws,
cracking skulls like Saturday morning eggs.

As my prayers ricochet off clapboard crosses
and judgment looms close like thunder,
this humble soldier will harness his munitions:
hornet’s nest landmines, magnolia pod grenades, semiautomatic acorn shells.
I will strike deftly, and when my weaponry jams,
throw fistfuls of lichen,
shake down pollen,
dive into a thicket,
snatch a fallen rhododendron branch.
I will stab, carve, and slice the white meat
like Wednesday night supper,
broken ribs cast aside.

If this is our last time lying close,
remember us not as two bodies, but as muscadine and honeysuckle.
Bittersweet fruit, preserved flowers.
We will rise from this battlefield.
Bandage our roots,
spread milky sap on our wounds,
join stems in the blood-orange dawn,
and grow strong.

Saleem Hue Penny is a Monck’s Corner (SC) rooted, Pisgah Forest (NC) raised, Chicago (IL) based “rural hip hop blues” artist. He explores our evolving modernist relationship with the natural world by fusing electronic music, watercolor painting, improvisational performance, and poetry. Previous works have appeared in Kindred Magazine (Anchor & Plume Press). Additional links at and @huedotart (Twitter/Instagram).

Photo by: Ana Prundaru