White Rat

                                                                                                            by Adair Ferdon


This stripped rodent's skull with hooked, worn front teeth
And molars pleated like the underside of morrels
Recalls my white rat, our only pet in subsidized housing.
Each night she escaped her cage to claw up my mattress and burrow in my hair,
Her quick hot breath on my neck,
Until the tumor blocked her lungs,
Until she struggled and wouldn't eat.
I sewed a calico shroud intending to stitch her inside,
then hurl her over the ledge of the Gorge.

My children, horrified, hid her for two days.
But I liked to think of her freefalling toward the Rio Grande
Where she would shatter on the river skin.
Her ransacked lungs stretching skyward as she fell,
Exalted, straining against the encasement of flesh,
While her bones, heavy, plummet toward the Earth's magnetic core.
I sometimes choose to fall like that, toward my own end, blind, resisting revision.

Rising, falling, exalted and burdened at once.
Her breath, her last, sails up mingling with all last breaths.

Wind IS the last breath of everything that dies.

She would bend the reedy stems of wild purple aster
Petals would bow in benediction, genuflect in red, powdered clay.

While all sleep, I place the rat under dormant chamisa in dirty snow.
She won't move to save herself.

At dawn, I put her, stiff and heavy for a rat, in the freezer, between packages of spinach.
Last rites postponed till Sunday.

She died in her sleep I tell the children.
Risa makes a cross of splintered wood.
Corey remembers six good things.
I tell three transgressions.