Mercy

10.
After that butterfly died, someone mowed down its sunflowers.
The field was boring and bare
besides the rabbits that lived there.

9.
One day, there was you. Sweet, spotted thing
with a bright blue collar. We thought about returning you.

8.
Instead,
we watched you with amusement. You were the bravest
little explorer in the big, bad field–a slice of bright blue
poking mischievously from the grasses near the creek.

7.
More dogs arrived. Bigger than you. Bigger than me.

6.
If we listened hard enough, we heard you whimpering. I didn’t see you, but I saw
the way their heads jerked
as they tossed you around. I figured

5.
Hoped

4.
That your neck snapped like a twig mid-air
and you died.

3.
I climbed the fence despite my fear of falling,
over brambles and back down into the wispy creek with my brother,
with branches
catching my hair and dragging me
backwards, begging me not to look.
We followed your blood just beyond the yard with the trampoline.

You breathed shallowly in the sticky grass, with your eyes fixed on something. Something. Something.
You’d bitten through your tongue.

Sticky red and bright blue. On the other side of the fence,
children laughed as they bounced high into the air.

2.
The sun set, and evening descended over the year and over your life.

In the darkness, the first few firecrackers snapped and I shivered while I stroked you and whispered that it would be okay. It would.

The vets were closed and it was a holiday weekend and there were gaping
holes in you, but you would be okay. When I picked you up, your head lolled
to the side.
A man called your name from the house with the trampoline.

You left often, they told us. You liked to explore with the other dog. The woman thanks us
and thanks us and thanks us and I think she’s reduced to breathing that way,
just like your distant panting in the grass.

1.
They call and tell us you died.

0.
I came to visit a few months later.
The field was still empty,
save for the sunflowers that grew tall as a trampoline
over the spot where we found you.

 

 

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Cielo

I used to watch you dance with your family,
swaying with the sunflowers on bright, breezy days.
Some of you were yellow like sunshine, and others were white
like clouds. You looked like little fallen bits of sky
that seemed untouchable beyond the fence–
a line marking wild grass and rustling whispers,
a portal to your paradise.  

You left your paradise.
You must have wanted a change of pace.
You must have wanted to bring some sky to me,
because in that fleeting moment my father opened the back door–
so slight, a little slice of time–
you flitted inside
and glided straight for the warmth of the open oven.  

I could have carried you in my palms.
You were so small, so fragile, so beautiful–
pure white wings, withered into ash
and swallowed down a hot, black throat.
The path you flew left a lingering
trail that diffused throughout the kitchen.
The sunlight that poured inside
between the blinds illuminated the ghosts of your particles
with cold indifference,
particles that tasted bitter inside of my skull that was still
ringing and rattling with my father’s rancid laughter. 

He called you stupid.
I remember we were baking ribs that day
and how my own ribs felt sore.
I remember how they felt like a pathetic shelter for my heart
that was rapidly wilting within them and settling,
defeated,
in my queasy stomach among unshed stone tears.
Lunch tasted like grey ash that afternoon.  

A childhood friend once told me
that white butterflies are the spirits of children.
I haven’t seen your family since.
I hope your wings were clipped,
your light snuffed,
before you even felt anything;
I hope your consciousness slid smoothly into sleep
with the ease of your waltzing entrance. 

Dear child, that day your soul was set free.
I only hope that you are at peace
as a cloud or as mist,
ever missed, in the midst of the sky–
a small sign from the heavens.
Goodbye. 

Ruby

One day I found a bucket
of something syrupy and clear
by the garage, and inside
was a cardinal,
face down, sticking out
oddly with none of a bird’s grace,
a pretty, slimy ruby glistening,
half-unearthed from its tomb;
yes, that white bucket was its oasis,
heaven beneath a hot Texas sun, a clear
choice for a sweet drink
before heading home,
and as it stopped to drink
it had to think,
“How lovely,”
while it delicately perched,
its head descended, its beak—
forced shut, was hushed,
its body—
tumbling after into afterlife,
found no way to sing, no strength to fly,
and I still wonder about those final moments,
whether
its jeweled wings beat valiantly against death,
or whether
it accepted its fate
in silent contemplation,
or whether
it was even dead yet.