Each Fall the maples in our yard prepare
themselves to meet the coming frost and rain
by pulling off their leaves, until their bare
stark branches line the sky, their plain
black limbs all awkward while the bright red
clothes they wore last week with almost an
unseemly pride lie fallow and discarded.
My wife dislikes such garments on the lawn
as much as on the floor. So she had found
a rake last Sunday morn, with church some time
away, and soon the scratching, earthy sound
had called us out of doors as well, to climb
the bank and join her on the muddy grass.
I watched as Caedmon fought his brother for
the rake, and felt a cold that could not pass
the woolen lining of the coat I wore.
Galena was the first to see the rat.
I need to note that her maternal heart
has little room for rodents. A mouse a cat
has caught, the rats that scatter in the dark
into the woods, arouse in her a spring
of primal angst. It quite surprised her there
in all its warm brown loveliness. The thing
was tremulous and soft and strangely fair.
And it was dying. We could see this clear.
Its feet could move, its eyes could see, its head
and ears would shift around when we drew near.
But it was dying. It would soon be dead.
With instincts that were true to all they knew,
my children gathered close to see it breathe.
Its chest would rise and fall; the almost blue
gray fur would ruffle in the wind that wreathed
a mist of falling leaves about us. God
is here, I thought. The God that sees the fall
of each brown bird must know this rat. In awed
and silent concentration, lit by all
the much they knew of love and less of death,
my children watched the slowly dying rat.
And as it struggled for each silent breath,
I sensed the God whose death killed death at last.