Taking Care of the Dead

I had been gone for three days
and came home to find him late
in the day: a flat sack of black fur
coming to me from somewhere.
On his last legs he climbed in the box
lined with my old rotten quilt.
Its cotton batting spilled out soaked
with the smell of my sweat and sesame seed oil
from last summer’s sunbathing in the back yard.

So I dug deep into that same place
where I had stretched out on the quilt.
I hurried to beat the sun going down.
My shovel ruptured Oklahoma clay,
cold and sticky winter licorice.
I rolled the creature into his sudden grave,
his fever-matted head, his droopy mouth,
but his eyes were open looking into the last
place the warm-blooded may know.
And from his rounded belly
A milky worm crawled out to shock me:
the purposeful diligence of invertebrates.
I raced to cover him up and pack him down.

Peace to the vagrant cat in the ground,
peace to the shovel caked with mud.
Peace to the white worm breaking through
taking care of the dead.
He was mine only in his dying hours
coming to me from somewhere.
But he taught me an old lesson
to dig and bury before the sun goes down.


Holly Hunt

About Holly Hunt

Holly Hunt, poet and novelist, was born in central Arkansas and now lives in Vancouver, Washington. Her poetry has appeared in The Southern Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Her non-fiction articles have been published online and in regional newspapers. She holds the MFA from the University of Arkansas.
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