In March, two Eastern Bluebirds, balanced in an autumn olive
Near the carcass of a deer you shot months back. The flesh now gone
And the ribs stretching upward like the belly of a boat.
Last November, that deer had come to you in the woods. Stumbled
Through a grotto of jack pines further up the hill. Gangrenous.
Its breaths heavy and white and the whole thing as dizzying as a dream.
You ran back to the house and asked what to do.
Grabbed a rifle and snapped a bullet into the clip. Minutes later,
A shot. We’d put it out of its misery. Saved it.
But now with the bones white against the cheatgrass and the hair
Matted and rank, I’m thinking maybe we should have left that dying thing
To die on its own, in a time and place of its choosing.
And yet I’d done that once: turned my back on a life that veered
Into mine. A man with torn pants and no shirt, his skin
As bruised and shiny as a river. I gave him no clothes or drink,
And he kept on walking. Through the steaming blue streets. Walking,
As the deer might have. For days, maybe. Or even weeks. But right here
The mice and beetles have been feeding, all winter long
On this body on which we believed we were bestowing some dignity.
And soon those holy blue birds will pass from us,
Swift as sacrament. The crocus will unfurl. The dogwood at our door
Will turn a furious white. And the thistle will grow thick over what’s left.
This spring and the next we won’t know what it was
We were saving, or whose blessing we were hoping to become.
—from Rattle #31, Summer 2009
Kimi Cunningham Grant: “I love language and always have. As a kid I’d stay up late reading books and scribbling in my large, careful handwriting, filling notebooks with stories and poems. Today, I write because it helps me to take hold of my experiences, to know what I think of them, to claim them.”