Rabies

By Claudia Emerson

Claude says beware when creatures lose their fear
of you, of daylight—become afraid instead
of water, even in hottest July. You cannot

trust what looks like taming, the skunk ambling
into the dooryard, fox slowed, a torporous
emergence from the trees, from the thorn-etched

bracken as though saved, answering God’s
call, or yours. Unmistakable,

the transfiguration you must destroy,
the single shot to the head, the severing of it
to send the skull—its brain—in a sack

to Richmond for the accounting, to prove
what you already know. The rest of it, though,
you are to burn at home in the barrel with the trash.

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