I found you in the dirt road.
I was running. Your wing was broken.
Hit by the truck, maybe, that had passed me a mile back.
I shared a wave with the driver.
(Was he your killer or was I?)
I knew I needed to wring your neck.
Or take a rock and smash your head.
(I had been taught this as a child in the town south of me)
A mercy killing.
But your eyes were soft and brown
And you still sang.
(And I no longer lived in that town.)
I moved you to the side of the road.
Nestled you within the tall grass.
Hidden enough. Did you feel safe?
But, of course, you weren’t.
I cupped my hands around you,
Tightening at your resistance.
Surely, I was the first human
You’d endured to touch.
I watched you for a long while.
An hour, maybe more.
Your coo grew faint.
I did not stop worrying.
To kill you, I knew, would not be useless.
The crows would soon circle overhead.
It seemed to me though
That those who feed on the dead have enough to eat.
Maybe it was not my place
Regardless, I offered you as a living sacrifice—
For there are those who only eat the breathing.
Why must the living always die for the rest to live?
(I was married before.
This life I live now,
All that is to come.
I still shudder to consider it—
The death required.
Did I let it die as gracefully as you are dying now?)
I once watched a documentary on small farms in France.
I do not speak French.
Yet, I caught the word sacrifice
Before they chopped off a chicken’s head.
I try now to offer thanks for each sacrifice on my plate.
If in no other way than to scrape it clean.
I cried no tears for you that day.
Though I asked God for some.
I think of you often—
Your body shrinking under the brush
Where I left you.
Whose belly did you fill?
I am happiest to think of it as a fox.
But it might have been a snake.
Cover image by Adam Muise