On a Morning Walk, I Found a Mother Possum
by Pam Baggett

Lying in the curve of a mountain road,
the trickle of blood at her mouth
red as maple leaves flaming the treetops,
belly flayed open. Around her, flailing
bits of pink: four hairless infants, eyes bulged
and blind, flung from her ruptured pouch
weeks early, the rest still tucked inside,
sucking cold teats.

Hand clamped to mouth, I spun around,
walked away. Stopped, not willing
to leave them on hot asphalt to suffer,
afraid I’d have to see them later,
crushed. And to spare the little dog
already come sniffing, not wanting him,
for his innocent hunger, to be struck.
I moved the family to shaded grass, waited
as her babies died. Because it mattered
that they’d never see first snow,
never taste the sweetness of blackberries.

*

Afterward, I walked for hours
before returning to my cabin.
Can I even say it? As I was trying
to fix lunch, everything felt
wrong. Chicken salad, the lumps
of raisins, celery like the jumbled contents
of her gut; chicken soup, too sloppy;
no, no, not eggs. Something
opposite: crackers, toast.

Shock had split me open,
I had seen myself from every angle
as the babies thrashed,
brown dog danced at my feet,
and in those wild thoughts swirling
I had glimpsed the hungry animal
who knew how warm and delicate
those infants would feel in my mouth,
how soft, how tender.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 22, Issue 1.

Pam Baggett is the author of Wild Horses (Main Street Rag, 2018), which was a runner-up for the Cathy Smith Bowers Chapbook Competition and received an honorable mention for the Brockman-Campbell Award from the NC Poetry Society. She is a recipient of an Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artists Grant from the Durham Arts Council and two Artist Project Grants from the Orange County Arts Commission.

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