After Chopping Firewood

by Brian Lee Cook

_

I sink into the couch, thin slits
Of light— open blinds distorted
On jagged carpet.
“The cat’s dead,” says Mom, hand craned
At nothing, index erect.

Grass shatters
As I walk on frost-encrusted
Blades, grinding
Stale bread. Crumbs fall
Down unreachable cracks, clog
Where nervous fingers wander.
My pockets fester with lint
And chewed fingernails.

It lies on the side of the road,
Head cracked open.
Three ribs jut
Through black fur—
A skeletal fork.

Death has no smell in winter,
Just the flash of pain, a jolt

Of fear, ax scraping
Rock, blood from a bitten
Lip, red fingertips
Raw from swinging
Down, chopping wood
That will never be burned.

I used to think

The dead were rag dolls tossed
In the ground, but when I lift
The cat, spots of fur stick
To the pavement. Frozen,
Unbending legs point
In lines, crossing each other—
A mangled statue.
My fingers stiffen, unable to feel

Blood, fur, anything
But hardened Lethe.

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