Killing Things

Poem by John Foy

Maybe you’d agree that Robert Frost

was lucky not to task the flesh of birds

his tractor ran across.  The worst they got

was just a scare that left their nest exposed.

So he and daughter tried to keep it right

and cover them with ferns, but even he

would never know if they survived that night.

 

It was a hedgehog Philip Larkin killed,

though by mistake.  He actually went outside

to mow the lawn, like any man, and caught

this creature in the blades—the one he’d fed.

What in the end could be more Larkinesque?

He should have been more careful, but at least

the hedgehog’s death was instantaneous. 

 

When Wilbur accidentally killed a toad,

it was the power mower once again.

He clipped its leg, and off it went to die

beneath a cineraria.  He used

the words “ebullient” and “emperies”

to talk about the life he’d compromised.

What would Philip Larkin think of these?

  

When my turn came, it happened in a field.

I hadn’t known that I’d gone over it,

but there it was, a rabbit much the worse

for having been beneath the rotor blades.

I’d laid its back right open to the bone,

but it was still alive and looked at me,

and then I had to kill it with a stone.

 

American Arts Quarterly, Fall 2013, Volume 30, Number 4