I cry for the dead squirrel
Who looks like he has fallen from the sky
Face down in the road.
Is he the one who ate acorns
watching me as I drank my coffee?
Now two days dead
No longer so much squirrel
As a smear on the asphalt,
I see him turn inside out
from those who feast on flesh
each taking his own turn –
flies, beetles, birds.
Car tires flatten what little remains
and by this evening I can barely
tell the squirrel from stains.
I feel guilty, I want
to bury him, save him
From the indignity of cars.
His limp body in my shoe box.
A grave in the garden bed near
the cats’ graves. But I don’t.
Instead I gingerly step over him,
around him. Park the van
a few feet farther up the block.
Afraid of what my husband will say,
what the neighbors will think
of my attachment
to a city rodent, a common pest,
I ignore my son’s young voice
who once insisted we bury every dead bird,
every squirrel, with love and ritual
because we are guardians of all we see.
I side-step that responsibility.
Instead I commemorate this moment.
The grave I should have dug,
The life I could not save.
The grey squirrel, soon forgotten,
already replaced, who I wish
I could ask to forgive me.