Sexing The Rabbits

By Angela Readman

In the years war dragged behind it, my father bred rabbits,
built hutches out of kitchen cabinets, ketchup and batter
on the walls, he nailed a mesh of silent radios to doors.
On the edge
of dinner he hovered by Mother’s knife, and sloped
out to feed his miniature cows scraps.
He took a hook from an eye, cabbage quivering,
twitchy bouquets of green roses in his hands. Rabbits
nosed out, ran circles around minutes,
hop hopped,
cotton tails swabbing his dry boots.
Rabbits, rabbits
nibbled their way towards strokes or stews, or trade
on a kid’s birthday for a sleeve of Lucky Strikes.
When they were born was the best,
in those early weeks, the man hardly moved, hand resting
just inside the hutch to be sniffed, and pick up a kit
on the dot of a first whisker of trust.
He whispered rabbits unscared,
blades of light flickering in his fingertips, ears
held steady as a match.
Later, on one knee,
he sorted the pies from the pets, took a rabbit
to blow on fur by its back legs – something showed itself
then went in. I watched, with a fistful of burdock,
my father pucker-up
as if wishing a year away on a candle, time tolled
by a dandelion, in a breath a rabbit was sexed;
the does left be; and only one or two males kept.

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