~Wildlife Rescue Center, Castlewood, MO
You’d bring us each wounded opossum,
broken jaw, eye gone slack from socket,
prayed mercy for the dying, for the dead.
So often I held it hissing on a sterile gurney
while Regina considered the damage, eye
back in or clipped it, cleaned the socket.
More times than not just loaded the syringe
as I pinned and waited until the pulse ran out,
until I could feel the ghost of it through
the rubber gloves, buried her with the rest
in the morgue freezer. Death is common
as duckweed sloughing a pond in summer.
Life is coaxing a fake rubber nipple down
the throats of pink nothings found inside
a mother’s bloodied pouch, press a small bit
of formula into their stomachs. Opossums
are sluggish, hearty creatures that look up
at each zooming headlight as though salvation
or the afterlife had come to meet them halfway
in your Mercedes C-Class. It’s why they suffer
head injuries. Not because your car represents
the combustion engine, industrial revolution,
angel of global warming that wings dry hillsides
into raging fires. No, don’t apologize.
It makes you look weak, foolish and arrogant.
Travis Mossotti was awarded the 2011 May Swenson Poetry Award by contest judge Garrison Keillor for his first collection of poems, About the Dead (USU Press, 2011), and his work has appeared in such places as the Antioch Review, Manchester Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Subtropics, The Writer’s Almanac, Vallum, and many others. In 2009, he was awarded the James Hearst Poetry Prize from the North American Review by contest judge Robert Pinsky, and in 2010 his poem “Decampment” was adapted to screen as an animated short film. He currently resides in St. Louis with his wife Regina and their daughter Cora.