I shot this one by the upper pond of the farm
after watching the rings trout made rising
to flies, watching small birds pace the backs
of cows, hoping all the time she would run.
My grandmother told me they damaged her garden.
I think it was a way to make the killing
lighter. She never let me clean them, only asked
I bring them headless to her. I bring this one
to the fir block near the house, use the single-
bitted axe with the nick in the lower crescent
of the blade, smell the slow fire
in the smoke-house, salmon changing
to something sweet & dark. A fly turns
in a bead of blood on my boot. I tuck
the head in a hole beside the dusty globes
of ripened currants, talk quiet to the barn cat.
In her kitchen my grandmother whets the thin blade
of her Barlow, makes a series of quick, clever cuts, then tugs
off the skin like a child’s sweater. This one was
pregnant. She pulls out a row of unborn rabbits
like the sleeve of a shirt with a series of knots.
The offal is dropped in a bucket. Each joint gives way
beneath her knife as though it wants
to come undone, as though she knows some secret
about how things fit together. I have killed
a hundred rabbits since I was eight.
This will be the last.
I am twenty, & about to go back
to the war that killed my cousin in Kin Hoa,
which is one more name she can’t pronounce.
I haven’t told her about the dead,
and she won’t ask. She rolls the meat
in flour & pepper & salt, & lays it
in a skillet of oil that spits like a cat.
She cannot save a single boy who carries a gun.
All she can do is feed this one.
The poem, “Grandmother, Cleaning a Rabbit,” appears in All That Might Be Done (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2014). Used with permission from the author.