The telltale ridges

Here’s an old poem with a few revisions I made just now. (I see it’s high time I went through each of my never-finished manuscripts with the proverbial red pencil. I tell you, being a perfectionist is hell!)

I sentenced a raccoon to death
for burrowing beneath the kitchen,
undermining my sleep with its bumping,
scratching, gnawing on the beams.
I set a killer trap in the mouth of the hole.

Just after dark I hear the snap:
lights out.

But then a frantic yelping,
a scrabbling of claws against wood.
I grab the rifle, run around back.

The coon’s wearing the trap like an ugly necklace,
lips pulled back in an inadvertent grin,
front legs smashed.
It’s managed to wrestle free of the chain
& is dragging itself ass-first into the weeds.
I put the barrel against its neck & fire, leap back.
Its death-fit flings blood in a six-foot arc.

Then the inevitable work of recovering the trap,
disposing of the carcass.
I remember that afternoon
how I released a tiger swallowtail
that had gotten entangled in the nylon garden netting.
How it then had gripped my finger so tightly
I could feel each vibration as its wings
kept jerking open, easing slowly shut.
How its proboscis swayed,
mining my fingerprint for salt:
up & down & around the telltale ridges.

As I carry off the body I hear the first katydid–
six weeks till frost.
The coon’s matted fur doesn’t put me in mind
of a hat with a tail, only of
the gloves I’m not wearing, the hole
I’m not planning to dig.

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