My mother—preferring the strange to the tame:
Dove-note, bone marrow, deer dung,
Frog’s belly distended with finny young,
Leaf-mold wilderness, harebell, toadstool,
Odd, small snakes roving through the leaves,
Metallic beetles rambling over stones: all
Wild and natural!—flashed out her instinctive love, and quick, she
Picked up the fluttering, bleeding bat the cat laid at her feet,
And held the little horror to the mirror, where
He gazed on himself, and shrieked like an old screen door far off.
Depended from her pinched thumb, each wing
Came clattering down like a small black shutter.
Still tranquil, she began, “It’s rather sweet …”
The soft mouse body, the hard feral glint
In the caught eyes. Then we saw,
And recoiled: lice, pallid, yellow,
Nested within the wing-pits, cozily sucked and snoozed.
The thing dropped from her hands, and with its thud,
Swiftly, the cat, with a clean careful mouth
Closed on the soiled webs, growling, took them out to the back stoop.
But still, dark blood, a sticky puddle on the floor
Remained, of all my mother’s tender, wounding passion
For a whole wild, lost, betrayed, and secret life
Among its dens and burrows, its clean stones,
Whose denizens can turn upon the world
With spitting tongue, an odor, talon, claw,
To sting or soil benevolence, alien
As our clumsy traps, our random scatter of shot.
She swept to the kitchen. Turning on the tap,
She washed and washed the pity from her hands.
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