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“It’s Still Alive”

by Felicia Mitchell

  • Before he skins the squirrel,
  • he carries it into the house in his hoodie—
  • head propped a little to the side,
  • as if sleeping. But it’s not sleeping,
  • and it’s not dead either, it’s caught
  • between a bullet and a soft place.
  • “Do you want to pet it?” he asks.
  • It’s pet, food, a way to fondle death,
  • this squirrel killed on a fall afternoon
  • when there is already so much to eat,
  • counters heavy with casseroles and chicken.
  • He doesn’t want any of this food.
  • He doesn’t want to think about his mamaw,
  • lost to him forever like innocence or a first kill.
  • The warmth of her body, her eyes,
  • her love, her meals, her words—
  • these are things he tries not to recall
  • as he stands in her kitchen with his squirrel.
  • What he needs now is a knife.

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