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Chard deNiord

The Visit

It was dead already with rabies as it loped
into the yard and up the stairs of the porch,
crusty around the mouth and deranged, no longer
afraid of anything as it gazed into
the pane of the sliding door, "How sad," I said
to my wife as she called the sheriff who told her
in turn to call the warden. I searched for the sweetness
inside its illness, kneeling down and staring
back through the door. Found nothing of the sort,
only its intent at getting in
and carrying out its mission, as if the Maker
were desperate for moving on, killing off
already what had just got started.
How sentimental to think that there was any-
thing finally to feel sorry for,
except her suffering which was divine,
causing me to imagine what something else
was feeling, small as it was and putrid
by reputation, canceled now by a pain
which I could see was real and wanted to feel
without the disease as a preparation for dying
myself, but also just to know what it
was feeling, to look like that, so fearless, ill
and strange. Nothing could have been more strange.
I saw just then how ill my health had been
in spirit, how separate I was from everything
else in the world. How to explain to someone
else that this deportment was the norm
for anyone concerned about her life.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is
the kingdom of heaven.
Hardly were these words out
when suddenly the image of the skunk dis-
appeared from the door and scuttled down the steps
and into the yard where it circled about
like a wind-up toy, falling down, getting
up. It was a Sunday evening. The warden
was out. I could handle it. Kill
it myself. I strung my fifty pound bow.
We own no guns on principle. If someone
wants to kill us as we plead for mercy,
then so be it. Such begging is so much
bleating, and he is legion. We use the bow
and arrow for recreation, my son and I,
shoot hay bales and rotten stumps,
fantasize a charging bull. But this
was different, this little blessing searching
our yard for a resting place, too real for me
to understand. I put the arrow in
the bow and leveled down as it limped around,
then let it fly, some wingless bird with sharpened
beak, as if I were killing one animal
with another. I had imagined its pain and seen
beyond myself. I was commited now
to the task of ending its life with a reason that hardened
my heart. This was the mercy bestowed on me
as a man who sees himself in a dying skunk,
who raises his bow in love with perfect aim.

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