This is the second of three days of animal-themed poetry by Renee Carter Hall. Renee is curating the 2016 [adjective][species] Poetry Collection, which is open for submissions until 22 April.
I had seen enough of battle.
Again and again I had carried the man into the fighting,
into the storm men make that nothing survives.
Now the thunder was gone, and their bodies
lay scattered, pale and still, across the field.
Only the river moved.
I went toward it–careful,
so careful, where I put my hooves.
At last I stood by the water, too exhausted
even to swish the flies from my wounds.
I felt nothing.
I was ready to die; I was hoping
it might be as if I were a foal again,
before I knew bit and bridle,
before I carried any weight.
Then they found me.
And they called me brave.
They made me remember.
Every parade, every ceremony took me back,
made my scars burn like half-healed wounds.
When they cheered me, I heard only
the cries of the fallen.
They gave me the best of everything,
made me the pet of the cavalry,
the mascot of the fort, the symbol
of courage and honor in defeat–
never thinking that all I wanted
was sunlight on my mane,
a mare to groom with gentle teeth,
the scent of grass instead of fear and gunpowder,
and the peace of that slow, cool river
to wash all the blood away.
February 1: Groundhog Goes to the FoodMart
Mrs. Fox, pushing her cart
in her best Sunday dress, string of pearls
at her red throat, reminds him
of the tenderness of spring chickens,
gives him a smile, white and sharp.
The Rabbit family crowds the cereal aisle.
As he chooses a plain cylinder of oatmeal,
Mother Rabbit says hello, steers the small talk
toward the petunias she’s planning
to brighten up the burrow,
the rows of cabbages and carrots
Father’s mapping out for the field.
The kits tug on Groundhog’s overalls, eyes bright,
whispering to him, one more snow,
one more afternoon of sledding, one more fort,
one more snowbunny with mittens for ears.
Sleepy-eyed Bear shuffles in, only nods
when anyone speaks, gets in line
with a quart of milk and a canned ham.
His bleary gaze meets Groundhog’s,
and he adds a can of coffee, economy size.
Groundhog waits in line, stares at the tabloids
while the chattering squirrel cracks gum
and rings up the shoppers ahead.
He feels their eyes on him, all watching as if
he could melt the gray slush outside with a glance,
could give them warmth and new life on a whim.
Even in this harsh fluorescent light,
he will not look at his feet.
(Readers can find more of my poetry, on various subjects, at http://www.reneecarterhall.com/poetry.html)