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The Gift

By John I. Blair

When I looked out on the deck,
As I do whenever possible
Since viewing birds and blooms
Is my grounding
As I bustle through my day,
This morning an anomaly appeared,
A still gray form beside the chimney
Half-hidden by a chair.

It took a blink to realize
It was a dead rat,
Caught by who knew what disaster,
Whether hawk or cat
Or poison bait or just the ill effects
Of eating too much mildewed birdseed.

I knew I had to move it,
Not just for sanitation
But as well from a surprising urge
To show respect toward a creature
I consider hostilely.

By the time I got outdoors
The carrion flies, familiar crew,
Had settled in, were feeding
And depositing their eggs,
Part since time began of Nature’s plan.
The odor was horrific to my nose,
Heir of a hundred million years
Of noses that had known
This was the smell of death, decay,
Disease, a warning to the living.

But I faced it, scooped it on a shovel
With the longest handle possible
And made procession to the compost pile
Where I’d already dug a grave, a tiny pit
Replete with microscopic life
That was waiting for my gift –
The rat’s gift really – of a body
To be reabsorbed into the soil.

And what could be more holy?
What more sacred than a gift
Of life for life, flesh for future flesh?
I laid it gently in the earth,
Covered it with loam and leaves,
Thought a silent thought of blessing
To this, my furry brother/sister,
Then went back to all the flowers,
The singing finches.

©2011 John I. Blair

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