How many times did I hold them up for him
and watch how easily something that had lived
comes apart? In each hand I clutched
an unlucky foot and splayed them, belly-side
to him, and he’d pinch the fur at the crotch
and with the knifepoint separate the fur
from the muscle and fat underneath. He’d cut
all the way around until it seemed the rabbit’s
long shirt had ridden up and then with one tug
he’d pull the fur down the body and over the head
the same way you’d tug the pajamas off a child.
From being plush, they suddenly looked frail, naked,
even old though most had known only two autumns.
Then with three or four quick flicks of the knife
he took the head and always the little headless nude
swung back and struck me in the chest.
Carefully, so as not to nick a gut, he slid the knife
under the belly skin and opened the little body.
Intestines, bladder and lungs spilled out but he would
have to pull them free, the glob in pink folds
like a sopping handkerchief dangling from his fingers.
He’d toss it over into the weeds and say a meal
for something passing in the night. In the night
when I startled out of sleep in the chair beside his bed
his bare, shrunken chest seemed so suddenly old
that again it knocked terribly against me, the dead weight.
Hold it up, he would say, higher. And I did.