I found my tabby cat in the barn
with white foam blooming from his mouth,
my mouse shaking with seizures in its pine shavings.
When my rabbit screamed, I knew it was because
it was leaving me. And when they said the chick
with the stretched neck had to be culled, I ran to my room
to my icy blue parakeet, feathers fluffed
only minutes before, and found him
dead and stiff at the bottom of his wire cage.
I picked him up, held him like a hollow toy,
and he was lighter somehow,
as if his soul had weight.
We buried the birds by the barn where, years later,
my dog, almost as old as I was, would lie swaddled
in a bed sheet as if to nap, and where
my black pony was lowered into the earth
in the metal mouth of a crane while I closed
the curtains and hid in a book.
Now, I watch my horses in the field, and I wonder
what keeps them from falling, as I have always wondered
how planes are elevated by air, and why corpses cannot stand
on their own—as if there is a desire in the dead to lie down
and rest. Still, my horses balance on thin, bony legs,
their heads turned toward the sound of the wind
being dragged by unseen fingers, their barrel bodies
somehow lifted from the earth,
their souls, like helium,
keeping them adrift.
When we were old enough to leave home,
our parents bought us Aran sweaters from Ireland
to match their own. Made from fisherman’s wool
to keep them dry at sea, these sweaters once identified
Irish clans, who wove stories into the patterns—cable stitches
like fishing rope, designs like Celtic sketches of island fields
and abundant harvests—and wore them like last names
or family crests. To me, the diamond ridges looked like the scales
of a fish, or like the mesh nets that would entangle them,
and I imagined the fishermen, preparing to launch,
pulling the sweaters over their skins as if to remind themselves
that they were caught. And I imagined wives and mothers
knitting patterns like prayers into the weave of the wool
for their loved ones, knowing that, if they drowned,
the sweaters would be recognized,
and they would be brought home.
To a Moth
You didn’t hide your adolescence like the others, cloaked
in construction-paper shells or cotton-ball casings,
stuck in the folds of leaves like gum in wads
of paper. Instead, you clung to the corner of your
glass house in a felted egg, as thin as membrane,
revealing your translucent body—a wax candle in a
frosted window. You stripped your false legs first,
gathering them at your insect feet like slippers
cast off before bed, and then I saw
grey wings budding from your back,
blanketing you for deeper sleep.
I found you on the wall by the window,
as if you had tried to abandon your nest unnoticed
and unrecognized beneath your humble wings. I cupped
you in my hands, felt you flutter against my palms
like a heart in a ribcage, and I let you go, knowing
your fate was to flock around light like the shadow
of a greater winged creature, hoping for sunrise to color
the night upon your back.
EMILY DIEHL is a writer from Nashville, Tennessee where she works as an editor at her alma mater. A 2016 graduate with a B.A. in English and Creative Writing, she will soon be participating in the MFA program at Western Kentucky University.