She lay at our feet with a metal arrow
through her chest, the arrow angled in
the ground not far from the lilac
nest where she’d been sitting.
Because he owned the bow, or that
he went by his last name,
or that his peach fuzz had darkened,
Cunningham said he was taking my turn.
He could not wait to show me
how it’s done, the killing.
If only quick, like turning off a lamp.
The dove lay gasping in the too sudden
present tense. Cunningham pressed
his shoe down hard,
then took the arrow out from her. Because
I’d not had my heart broken this close up
before, I held the bird extra, said good aim
then placed her back in the lilac bush
so no one could see. I heard my mother’s
dinner bell in the distance wringing
the dry air in my throat. I walked home and ate all
her steamed kale, because it was good for me.
—from Rattle #79, Spring 2023
Mark Rubin: “I write because it’s a way of rendering the heartaches that come from being alive. As a certified curmudgeon, I have an edgy, ongoing sense of wonder, if not reverence, for small things in the natural world, and big things that move through me as a result. I am most happy when I can get out of my own way.”