Monday, June 06, 2005

The Art of Removal

First, you have to recognize
this as an art; then
you must practice, not by choice
but necessity, and always
your face must not turn away.

You must act quickly and true,
know the exact container,
cloth, or broom with which to collect
whatever has died: bird,
rat, or lizard perhaps, whose dried carcass
can now be picked up bare
and tossed by the tail.

You must learn three feet
is pretty far down, and keep digging
till you’ve hit shale.
Do not ask if it’s legal
to bury things in your yard;
mark the spot, only if you must.

Perhaps you have not killed
the thing that is loose;
the cat or the dog
brought it in to play,
then carelessly lost it
as it raced under beds,
behind the washer or fridge—
or was dropped in the toilet,
as once was a possum, swimming
for its life against the smooth
porcelain bowl, going nowhere.

Set a trap and forget it;
you will know when it’s worked.
Bring a broom and a bag.
Don’t breathe, double tie the bag,
then bag it again.
Throw the bag in the trash and take it
out back.
Don’t feel guilty.
If the thing to be removed
is larger than a dog
but smaller than a horse,
and you have no idea who he is,
call the police. Sometimes
they are helpful.

However, if he looks familiar,
close the door, sit down and think.
It could be your first ex-husband,
or the one after that who refused
to go away, lingering like the smell
of something dead but very much alive.
Threaten to call the dogs.
If it was your last, convince him
you’ve learned your lessons well
and can now throw out most anything,
dead or alive, knowing
there is very little difference.
Close your eyes. Turn your head.
Look at the sky, the one gardenia
that’s bloomed, and send him
back the way he came.


jenni said...

happy to see your lovely work here, Barbra!


H. W. Alexy said...

Oh, this is good. I very much enjoyed the read. You capture a lot, though I might suggest you adopt the fisherman's hook and release practice. It cuts down on the trash on pick-up day.


didi said...


I really relate to this poem.