Elegy for Q
I stood above the kitten, freshly struck, fur a fluid
silver like the side of a shark. Her blood was spilled
nail polish on new carpet, skull only slightly cracked,
blue eyes open against the road. I glanced to the windows
of the nearby houses, imagined twitches amongst
the draperies, lamenting that here, people are around
when you touch dead animals. On the farm, I did this
in private, sometimes even forgetting to wash my hands.
My knuckles scraped pavement as I lifted the kitten,
not knowing how heavy she might be. She was warm—
the sun’s doing, surely, though before I laid her
in front of the closest neighbor’s mailbox, I thought
I felt her purr, or rasp, and briefly considered
which way to kill her. I did not tell you.
Death was waiting for us elsewhere.
We put the greyhound to sleep, not knowing
we would leave the vet without him. Something
was wrong but we thought we had time to let him
gorge on peanut butter, yogurt, tuna, carrot,
any old kibble fed piece by piece until our hands
were viscous with spit, nibbled into overstimulation.
It was difficult to tell when he went from sleeping
to shell. Muscles pliant and warm, I held him,
squeezed his foot one last time before they slid him
out of the room on his drool-stained blanket.
You could not look. He was human-sized,
and we would play his rib cage like a bongo in bed.
At times his shoulder, his ass, looked too much like a lover’s.
Yesterday, I swerved around a scarlet gumdrop:
fat cardinal, motionless in the middle of my lane,
just past the blind curve where I have almost
hit children before. Couldn’t tell blood
from feather so I got out, stepped toward it
and it flew, uninjured, onto the grassy shoulder.
Idiot bird. Of all the places to rest. I was just
so relieved there’d been no neck to snap.
Dallas, TX: Round-Up, Gay Western Bar
Incongruous disco ball, throwing a swarm
of lightning bugs against the wooden walls,
and men of a certain age, jean-clad, boots
oiled black or Western whip-stitched, thread
the color of straw and strong as pampas grass.
Some boasted roses fit for framed samplers.
Shirt plackets pointed as envelope flaps,
and just as crisp. They were two-by-two,
moving together with matching footsteps—
one forward and the other back into dusky air
like being swallowed: would you go with me?
They were spinning teacups at the county fair,
whirling dervishes married to time signatures,
frenetic banjos, Josh Turner’s voice so low
it set the room to rumble as they toe-heeled, tucking
their faces into the sweat-slick necks of their partners.
They did not grow dizzy, though I did
from watching. The room must have been
moving with them. The globe is turning, after
all. Always has. All matter, in its way, quakes.
Image: Jon Tyson