The Heartland Review Press

2019 Chapbook Contest


M.H. Perry

The Country We Live In

M.H. Perry

From The Country We Live In


Fragile Animals


I picked tomatoes before it started to rain,

soft as breasts and pink as first menstrual blood

except where the hornworms had bitten them.


We trapped another raccoon last night,

yellow eyed and stained by our biggest blueberries.

This is the fifth one this week and my husband is in no hurry

to drive to the next county to set him free.

His sister dangles from the apple tree,

a green Mutsu in her teeth.


I must have fallen again. Tiny red stars of petichia

drip from my eyebrow.


My husband has moved back into our bedroom,

and I wake to find him watching me.

He has an odor I don’t like,

something sweet

that lingers.


Last week’s storm shattered the cypress tree

and in the tangle of limbs and leaves

I trapped a cottonmouth on the tines of my rake.

A young one, still red as the conifer litter,

its white jaws thrown open like a hearse.


Grey cat won’t leave my side today.

If I sit, she sits in my lap.

If I lie down, she curls between my breastbone and hips.


A honeybee lights on my arm to graze.

Maybe that smell is coming from me?


I make tea for a friend and we sit

in the kitchen where we can see the birdfeeder.

The birds are magnified by her pleasure,

their browns become burnt sienna, ochre, ecru

or good dark chocolate and crème brûlée.

She hardly says a word, just looks at me and smiles.


I would like to be one of those birds,

well fed, safe in the Ilex Opaca,

happy to be here, able to be over there,

in the long sky over the hayfield

wheen the mosquitoes rise up out of the dew.


When I was happy, I drank, sometimes too much for my own good.

An icy flute of champagne, a good fuck,

the monarch larva munching on the milkweed plants.

Especially the monarchs, those tiny stripes,

black, yellow, green layers like a Lepidoptera ratatouille.


I hate it when a box turtle I admired yesterday

turns up halved by the mower today.

I am tired of wax moths dislocating my bees.

I can’t abide the dead butterflies on the truck bumper

or the pelts stacked like kindling in the shed.

I love it when coyotes read the dinner menu

out loud.


A year ago I could walk with you

to the blackberry patch.

The berries were so heavy

they broke the grass.



Check back for 2020 Chapbook Contest announcement.