Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1
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Passing Through

A lamb falters in the pasture, lies down,
and later, when I bring the feed, is dead.

But like before: the yellow eyes are open, lips
closed over the teeth; the slim white face, a wooly ear

rests on thistle, the four small hooves in true.
The sun is hot. I start to drag her from the field,

still-soft limbs bumping awkwardly. I pick her up,
her weight in my arms baby enough to carry

the distance through humming grass to the truck.
The other lambs and ewes ignore us, suck, graze;

the dog lolls too, on sun-warmed fieldstone—
death and I, that unremarkable. For a day #284 lies

on an empty feed sack in the toolshed, visited by the first
of the destroying flies. Before she swells and bursts,

she’s readied: belly slit, the body mulched in damp
thick shovels full of wood chips. We know her stink

will live a while around the barn, sweet soured.
By August her soil will fill the pasture holes scraped

by hens to dust their wings. On any day my boot
may crush a heedless chick, my slaughter hand

push through a cockerel to loosen that hot rope
of guts, finger twin red lung sacks loose from ribs,

pinch the round gall from the liver, distribute
feet in one bin, necks in another. Just as a sow

will roll her bulk on a sturdy piglet, its crush delicious
to another jealous sow, the turkey with a difference

only turkeys care about will be pecked to bone by the flock.
That shadow skimming the grass, that moves the hens as one

to silence under the henhouse, will strike. Mornings,
the raccoon’s bloody work among the layers shows

in headless, stiffened corpses; the coyote’s appetite,
spread in feathered litter, makes no other point: at a lope

it comes, catching the scent, pausing, passing through.  end

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