Hard to believe our dog dropped
the squirming chipmunk in favor
of a treat, but there it was,
trying to pull itself through the grass,
back legs not working,
damaged by the beagle’s canines.
I walk to the garage and choose
the flat blade, more surface area
with which to make solid contact.
It takes time to build the nerve,
never having intentionally killed
anything larger than a wasp,
and it is harder than I think it should be,
like cutting my daughter’s umbilical cord.
One hit to the head didn’t do it,
I need four to finish, watching
the body bounce from the impact
of each slaying swing.
Ancestors laughed at my restraint.
They killed and butchered hogs,
boiled off the hair and drained the blood.
I don’t toast with slivovitz or dig
a grave, a plastic bag tossed
in the dumpster the best I can manage.
No longer a weapon,
the tool went back in the shed,
the taste of death still on its tongue.
A hint of red backlights the approaching storm.
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
But it doesn’t matter the hour in these times;
there is always warning, few delights.
Leaves falling and it is only August.
Something is poisoning the world.
I used to fear for my unborn grandchildren,
for the lives they would lead.
Then I feared for my children.
Now I fear for us.
Paper lanterns are lit and sent floating,
a regatta of shimmering prayers.
Phosphorescent in the evening light,
they carry the best of us.
I worry it’s a gesture too late.
I turn up my collar as the wind makes
its presence known. Branches slap
shingles like brushes against a snare drum.
What if the weather vane lies?
I pick the last of the raspberries,
staining my fingers as they tear
from remaining on the cane too long.
David Mihalyov lives near Lake Ontario in Webster, NY, with his wife, two daughters, and beagle. His poems and short fiction have appeared in the Concho River Review, Dunes Review, Free State Review, New Plains Review, San Pedro River Review, and other journals. He works at SUNY Brockport and volunteers at Writers & Books, a literary arts center based in Rochester.