Before I met him, I'd kept a litter of squirrels
in my skirt pockets. Papa'd shot the mother
out of his walnut tree one morning, just
as I was looking up, just in time to let her
fall into my hand, leaving a bloody stain
to map my palm when I jumped
and the buckshot shreds of her body slid
to the stiff bristles of the grass below.
I stopped moving. The blood on my skin
smelled sweet, licked my hand as it slipped by.
I was fifteen. In the passing of a year,
I'd meet him, marry him, begin to lose. The babies
of that squirrel were happy to curl deep
in cold-washed calicoes, until one night,
as if a dream, they dripped away: one
to the dark shadows outside my dress,
another sunken deep into itself, having turned
down the fractured meals I had to offer.