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Gabriel Spera

Having seen the cubs, no bigger than a child’s
first sneaker, ply the compost heap
for melon scalps and black banana peels,
who would not choose to believe this stiff
but bloodless heap, a puddle’s width
from the curb, were simply feigning death,
might suddenly yawn, stretch out her cramped
hind legs, unkink the lanyard of her tail
and just start waddling down the walkway,
as she did most midnights, poking
her coffee-filter nose beneath the bugles
of calla lilies, rooting for cutworms
and snails like beefy teamsters plowing
roads of moony glister over
terra-cotta pots. And seeing the zipper
of her smile, who would not suspect
some impish prank, some childish game
of make-believe, for what could amuse
the dead enough to forget their own
undoing? On any other face, such a grin
might be received as the look of someone
suckerpunched by life too many times
to ever expect a happy ending,
or the look of peace that comes to one
at last let go from the crosshairs of a world
that begrudged enough for even
the most monkish to rummage a life from.
On her lips, though, it seems simply a smirk,
a sneer, that mocks the vast rest of us,
who’ve convinced ourselves we must—even
knowing all we know—somehow go on,
sidestepping the heap of our bloodless faith,
our stiff convictions littering the road.

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