Backyard Augury

Spring brings rabbits to our yard.
I used to give them names, but now they’re all Bob. 
Bob shows up in March, lives under the shed
dines on my weeds, and grows long
in my smudged kitchen windows. 

Every year there’s been a Bob, except the one after
we found bits of Bob’s litter. That summer I watched
cats instead: nosing the wild catnip, sunning in the un-
mown grass, stalking my geriatric indoor Tortie
through the glass, yellow eyes unflinching
to her neurotic trill. 

I turned forty yesterday. I have mostly stopped 
assigning meaning to the vagaries of animals — a bird
for instance, smacking into the door, is just a bad day
for the bird. But Bob returned, and though there was no
sign of the kits all through that fattening season, I couldn’t help
but think of augury last night, shouting into the dark

at the black neighborhood cat head-bobbing in the grass,
her slick haunch gliding away as I thundered, barefoot,
across the damp ground to find, once again, Bob’s
dead children

not under the shed but a not-deep-enough hole; not in pieces,
but perfect, tiny, eyes still closed, ears heart-breakingly long,
folded back, useless gray velvet between the fingers
of my inverted plastic-bag glove. 

I buried them in the garbage can in an Almond Milk carton
with a paper towel shroud. I stood at the curb, on the cusp
of middle age thinking, Couldn’t you at least make her
work for it? What kind of mother makes her nest
an invitation in an open yard? 

while across the street, Bob watched, eyes gleaming,
as if to say The trash can, the cat’s maw, woman —
what difference does it make?

[Written by Shannon Connor Winward.]

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