FIRST FROST, SEPTEMBER: A PRIMER FOR ANIMAL CARE
The farm was not ours. We knew nothing
about animals, only when to feed them,
which we did daily in borrowed boots
caked with mud, complaining
about the weight of the chicken feed,
and how much the rabbits drank.
The animals were not interested in us either,
the chickens content to peck and prattle,
the rabbits concerned with pellets, leaves and water.
We had been told to look for babies under the cages,
but found a rabbit fetus instead,
nearly smothered by dry straw.
It was not love but something like it --
the way you held that sack
of nearly-formed creature between thumb
and forefinger, so as not to crush
its non-ears, needle claws, and pinpoint eyes,
its skin the color of a conch shell,
your hands chapped and hard
after months of learning how to hoe.
Frost comes early this year.
September burns out fast.
Dead leaves of forgotten
potato plants lie parched,
now iced. Milk curdles overnight
in the fridge. Early morning
freezes sound--No birds, no cluck,
no sigh of wind through the grass.
We still search for rabbit babies
in the trays under the cages, our gloved fingers
seeking small creatures wrapped in straw.
They are not built for this, our hands,
but we learn anyway. Not to love, or even close:
how to filet a fish without slicing the white meat,
how to twist wire so a weasel cannot slither in,
how to touch a body lightly, promising nothing,
and still bruise the skin.
Hannah Oberman-Breindel has been published in Prick of the Spindle and has poems forthcoming in Crab Creek Review and The Comstock Review. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.