Charles Rafferty’s twelfth collection of poems is The Smoke of Horses (BOA Editions, 2017). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, O, Oprah Magazine, Prairie Schooner, and Ploughshares, and his stories have appeared in The Southern Review and Per Contra. His story collection is Saturday Night at Magellan’s. He has won the 2016 NANO Fiction prize, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. Currently, he directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College.
The mud remembers the deer. At the bottom of every hoof print, a sip of water, the wriggling of larvae, the promise of blood and flight.
THE PROMISE OF THE SEA CANNOT BE KEPT
It tumbles out of an alp covered with ice a thousand years thick, gathering force down the sheer side of the world. You expect it to reach the sea — the way it cuts into the earth underneath the rope bridges, the way it takes on the color of dissolved rock. But it loses momentum long before that, stalling out among cattails and the mud that stretches. With every step, the gas bubbles out of it. Look — the skeleton of something stuck like a strand of ruined pearls flung down.
Before they went into the bedroom, he opened a second bottle of wine and handed her a burgundy egg. The evening was hatching. A toad outside sat under the porch light, eating the moths that fluttered down. The moon kept tearing at the clouds. Afterward, a breeze cooled over him wherever she had been, and the night birds had their say. He listened as he pretended to sleep, trying to recall where his shirt had fallen.