Back to Issue Twenty-Nine.

All the Dead Animals


The highway’s asphalt smudged
with tragic beagles and armadillos,

deer who staggered to the median—
we know those. The avian accidents,

too: cardinal who mistook glass for sky,
small naked robin on the sidewalk.

But what about the ones who kept
surviving? Where is the gray squirrel

gone grayer until its acorn-heart
stopped? The long-lived mallard

who floated one day into no-day?
Where are their soft, still bodies?

It makes sense, or I want it to:
the animals take such care not to die.

Every summer I walk by Silver Lake,
its bank shining with sunning turtles

—snappers, red-eared sliders—
and when I pass they slip noiselessly

into the water. I want to believe that
some wild things go to death only

if they’re chased there. I want
to believe in some vast secret

forest where lucky old hawks
hunt forever and elderly coyotes doze

in a clearing. I could never visit,
I know. But somehow that place

would gentle my own life—its teeth
and instinct, its hackles, its flight.

Catherine Pierce is the author of three books of poems: The Tornado Is the World, The Girls of Peculiar, and Famous Last Words, all from Saturnalia Books. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere, and has won a Pushcart Prize. A 2019 NEA Fellow, she co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.


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