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The littlest creatures died quickly.
Goldfish lasted days, their glowing orange cadavers
bobbing on the fishbowl’s murky surface.
The gecko survived a week. It’s carcass
discovered one afternoon
dried up like a bug specimen.
The hamster stayed on earth long enough
to master the spinning wheel to nowhere,
to survive show and tell and the squeeze of chubby fists,
before strangulating on the cage bars in a botched escape.
The bunny arrived one Easter then died
days before the next, causing a resurrection watch.
When Hoppy failed to rise from the dead,
his corpse landed in the yard waste.
We never found the cat’s body. Banished
to a life outdoors after bloodying the baby’s face.
Perhaps it disappeared into the jaw of a ranging coyote.
We were not a family to bury our dead pets
with great ceremony in the back garden
under a handmade cross, whispering prayers
to serve warning to God’s small creatures:
Beware. Enter at your own risk.
The Square House—94 Shaker Road, Harvard, Massachusetts
Built by Ireland Shadrach in 1769, the Square House
became the center for the Shaker community.
A square house rooted in a clearing of massive
broadleaf maples that burst into flames each fall.
A house built by a man who skipped the Revolution,
paid the King’s taxes, worshipped god.
Neighbors said it was his ghost that lived with us,
the squirrel family in the attic,
hornets nesting in the nursery,
carpenter ants shedding wings, dying,
brittle carcasses scattered like a game of pick up sticks
and the mosquitos I’d kill at night creating a monotype
of smashed remains on the bedroom ceiling.
A house with a front door to nowhere,
a swing hung from a lilac bush the color of cough syrup
and a cat-tail rimmed pond buttered with lily pads
where I’d take my son to cup tadpoles and skitter bugs.
A house that held strong my daughter born
during the wail of a late May storm,
rocked her heavy, sleek body mid-night
to the click and whistle of crickets.