by Candice Kelsey
We all walk taller in the drizzle of encouragement— life, an explosion of niche blessings. Winter even holds us in its leaf hands like tiny children, graduates of autumn. Enter the spirit-filled pause of death as Christians are conditioned to hunt programmed to murder deer, ducks, quail, and fish— A new Sabbath rest comes hot after the hunt. Fire from The Deer Stand Devotional: A Walk with the Creator Through Hunting Season Following His Tracks: A Hunter’s Guide to Christ— The Full Quiver: Devotions for Bowhunters. The magician pulls winter from his hat & our heads spin to find the light of morning to rise & step into the closet for the day’s leaves— while rut-season hands field dress a deer carcass. Gutshot parade as holy worship. Nothing like the Tinker Creek pagination of Blue Ridge Mountains, that paper minister teaching me water bugs, feral cats— lost cattle, a gas station beagle, the ever elusive muskrat. We are microscopic citizens teeming in a cup of pond water looking for spiritual epiphany or balm in the premise of winter and its trophy thrill— The heft of us is theologically problematic. We die innocent, unsuspecting, and docile bounty of winter’s cruel & camo-covered subsistence hunters. We mostly intend to survive— The issue: Christian devotionals as tree-stand reading. Be more like Jesus Christ, your Savior echoes in the woods behind my home like the pre-dawn tread of men exhaling steam— eager to shoot, drag, hang, & hack saw the white-tailed. Is there no more covenant among the living? Beasts of the field & birds of the air & creeping things of the ground share December’s lair— with 165-grain expansion bullets in 30-ought-6 rifles. Pope Francis took his name with purpose, seeing a need for Assisi he wrote his encyclical to billions— in this winter of Creation, Laudato si’: we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures. More than chill or trope of death, winter brings harmony— or ought to. Winter is not some catchy title found online in glossy covers of Christian hunting devotionals; it is Creator. Eye of deer. Winter is earth’s pause & plea.
Candice Kelsey [she/her] is a poet, educator, and activist in Georgia. She serves as a creative writing mentor with PEN America’s Prison Writing Program; her work appears in West Trestle, Heimat Review, Poet Lore, and Worcester Review among other journals. Recently, Candice was a Best of the Net finalist and was nominated for a Best Microfiction 2023. She is the author of Still I am Pushing (FLP ‘20), A Poet (ABP ‘22), a forthcoming full-length collection (Pine Row Press), and two forthcoming chapbooks (Drunk Monkeys’ Cherry Dress and Fauxmoir Lit).