BY JESSICA POLI
It’s morning, and in my arms
another lamb is dying.
I’ve done this before.
Watched a horse, bloated
and belly-up, jerk its legs in its stall
before the vet came with her needle
to soothe it. But here,
this small shaking body
seems like a bigger death—
her short breath on my neck,
the stain of yellow-green shit
soaking the center of my shirt
from where her back legs press.
Maybe I’m making too much
of the way her eyes close
as she finishes the bottle of milk,
how her head falls against my chest
as if to say: I trust you
as much as one animal can trust another.
If love were ingestible, wouldn’t it
take the form of milk
warm from a mother’s teat?
This milk is from a goat, but the lamb
would never know, being the runt
of the litter, kicked away
by her own mother’s sharp hoof.
With what tangible vessel of love
can I nurse her?
And here I’ll admit that, in my head,
I’m already writing this poem—have already
arrived at the image of the shit
blooming on my shirt like a flower
or a patch of green lichen.
And I’ve looked at her throat and thought
about how I would cut it
if I had to, if her suffering
grew larger than what her body
could contain; have watched videos
on how to do it;
and now, holding her,
I picture bright droplets of blood
scattered on the pine chips below us,
and I know—I’m ashamed to say it—
that it would be beautiful.