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Burying Christopher

When you wish some knowing Creator
or helpful quirk of evolution
had equipped you with one simple skill–
not much to ask, really–
to kill,
to kill with ease,
with the brush of a gentle hand,
these times come.

To stroke once, smoothly,
with soft fingertips
across terrified eyes,
to shade cataract clouds,
end hectic panting
with a soft rustle,
a delicate graze, a pat
on dried skin, through patchy fur.

But those acids gain no edge
in easing pain;
selection has no empathy.
We are clawless, embarrassed.

Again and again he spilled
much more than a dog's worth.
That spider frame,
that taut tumored belly
hanging suspended like some
yellow compressed bile pool
from a mangy scaffolding;
this pure-bred, reduced;
his dignity pouring
in waves on the wood floors;
a shuddered pause, while we
did what little we could,
which was nothing.

She wasn't equipped with that one little skill;
nor could she summon
the strength, nerve, the guts,
to end it for him. It took months;
spilling sloppy down the front stoop
to shamble to his magnolia tree
and become a still shadow.
At day's end,
the slight incline was too much.
We young ones helped push,
much too small to decide; but we knew.
And we wished we had that skill.

His burial was a mockery. It seemed
that the grass rose up to meet his corpse
and raise a mound
that faded before our steps.
Earth knew; earth had it.
We were wanting.

Nov. '99

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