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.