Dress Rehearsal

Some animal urgency made me chase it down.
A final tumbling lunge and I grab it giddy.
Those unguent eyes show nothing of their terror,
as I sit and stroke my quaking prize.
A last spasm, legs splayed out, eyes even blanker
than before, still open, not even accusing
as I squeeze it, as I breath on the still warm fur
of it and pray like an evangelist. But nothing
brings this bunny back to life.

So I set it on the pine duff and walk away.
I try to weep. But tears won't come— even now—
though shame still pricks me when I think
of that poet man so hungry for life
that he would hunt it like a common predator,
then sit there stroking what was not his to hold
as it fled to the only place that was left
for it to flee to.

As we too shall one day flee this rag-doll body
when some monster rocks us in its clammy mitts.
And there is no one to blame. Death can't help itself
any more than I could. If that bunny were to cross
my path even today, who's to say I would not
run it down. And that's the point—

not that we are killers by nature,
but that we kill without intending harm.
Wanting only to have and to hold. Wanting life.
And then it dies. That's all, it dies—
as we too must— not from malice.
But because death loves us too much.

And there is nothing to be done. Except,
now and then, to sit quiet in some shadowed wood,
and to feel the awkward stroking
of this immense tenderness— this death
that looks like terror, but it's not. A dress rehearsal,
so that in the end it's love, not fear
that wraps us in its ample arms.

Richard Schiffman

About the poet: Richard Schiffman is a former journalist and author of two biographies: Mother of All, and Sri Ramakrishna, A Prophet For the New Age. His poems have appeared, or are upcoming in Poetry East, The North American Review, Southern Poetry Review, 32 Poems, Rosebud, Valparaiso Poetry Review and other journals.