Domestic Taxonomy

Kate Gaskin

Everywhere we went, the animals came

as if called: barred owls from the tulip

trees, foxes from a tangle of wisteria,

mule deer from among the spun sugar

of cottonwoods, their tassels of winged

seeds billowing white like late snow.

When we lived in Florida, even the dolphins

came to see what we could do. This too

was an omen. And the gray calf, exact

miniature looped to his mother’s side,

was portent to our own child, his felted

forehead, marble-round belly, damp eyes

black as interstellar space. How to explain,

then, that we also found them dying

and dead: blue button jellies the color of sea

lying tangled in hundreds along the white

sand beach. A dog shriveled in the summer heat

to a bag of wet leather and tufts of still-

brown fur, its jawbone bright as a pearl.

And the birds. First, the northern flicker

lying next to the front stoop, frozen

in a perfect shock of red and yellow

plumage, its handsome chest spotted

with cream. And next, the fledgling our son

found fallen from the tree. He scooped it

into a box so tenderly, though nothing

can bring back a bird with a snapped neck.

I didn’t tell him, then, what’s lost often stays

lost, though it was past time to fess up

about moths and their summer dives

into streetlights, or the cat that carried the bird

from the box in a grip that was also love.


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