Call of the Wild by Trudy Hale

I wanted to write about hunting season here in the rural countryside, the howling packs of dogs, the men and women who sit in muddy trucks on the side of the road with loaded guns, waiting, and the orphaned black bear cubs. I also wanted to write about my Mississippi cousin who transported cross-country in the back of his Toyota pickup, a taxidermied bear’s head bagged on a Native American reservation in New Mexico.

But October calls me, like the wild and wild things, to write about my wild nephew.

He will be turning twenty next week, and the two plague years he spent with me I now call my tour of duty. My deployment. Two years ago, I wrote in this magazine, “A Plague Tale,” a time when he and I were locked in fierce battles, alone in this rambling three-story house, a writers’ retreat, echoing and empty during the pandemic. He lived in my kitchen, in front of the TV on a sofa-bed barricaded behind two of my bookshelves. He trashed my kitchen. My housekeeper quit. He sliced small squares from the window screens in my bathroom and writers’ rooms, for his marijuana pipe, discovered only later, in mosquito season. When the county reopened the schools, he got himself kicked off the school bus, and the school soccer team even though he was a star player. And at eighteen, according to him, I, his beloved aunt, “kicked him out.” After a year of working in fast-food kitchens and sofa-surfing, in and out of county court houses, he joined the Marine Reserves, passed Parris Island boot camp and plans to attend college in the spring. Do you hear a sigh of relief and amazement?

Photo of bear cub on tree limb
Black Bear Cub by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region. CC license.

The year his father died, I wrote a poem.

Reading the Times

A young boy discovered
buried in Eastern Siberia
24,000 years ago whose genes
suggest to scientists
brown hair, freckled skin.

Buried under a stone slab
beside a lake,
wearing an ivory diadem,
a bead necklace,
a bird-shaped pendant.

In the corner of my upper room
next to the cast iron radiator
my brother’s ashes sit
in their burgundy box
from the California mortuary,
not all, but some of him
we buried
across the road in a black tin
my daughter painted
with bright green hearts.

The train passes below
the church yard,
hauling coal
from the scarred
mountains of West Virginia,
rattles past my brother,
half of him,
lying not far from the hemlock stump.
We measured careful, not to dig up
other graves.

24,000 years ago
someone carved a crown,
winged beads
from fierce white bones
that roamed the ice.

I have not cut
my diadem of grief,
crowned my brother
in the cold,
in the icy DNA.
Half of him sits
in the corner of my sunny room.

We found a journal under the seat of his old truck
before they towed it to the junk yard.
The chains clanked like trains.
Photos of my brother
and his little boy
skating on ice.
My brother’s strong lean body,
his freckled hand
holding on.

24,000 years ago temperatures
plummeted, ice grew
from the top of the world
buried the little boy beside the lake
with the ivory diadem
the bone bird necklace

ribs of stone
spiral of rock
heart-shaped fossil,
the demands of the dead

Trudy Hale
Trudy Hale is Streetlight Magazine‘s Editor-in-Chief. Born in Memphis, she lived a somewhat chaotic and semi-glamorous life in Hollywood, married to a director and raising their two children. She moved to Virginia and opened Porches Writing Retreat in Nelson County, a retreat that supports and encourages writers of all stripes, regardless of age or checkered past. You can find out more about her on

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