It’s Still Alive

by Felicia Mitchell

Before he skins the squirrel,
he carries it into the house in his hoodie—
head propped a little to the side,
as if sleeping. But it’s not sleeping,
and it’s not dead either, it’s caught
between a bullet and a soft place.

“Do you want to pet it?” he asks.

It’s pet, food, a way to fondle death,
this squirrel killed on a fall afternoon
when there is already so much to eat,
counters heavy with casseroles and chicken.

He doesn’t want any of this food.
He doesn’t want to think about his mamaw,
lost to him forever like innocence or a first kill.
The warmth of her body, her eyes,
her love, her meals, her words—
these are things he tries not to recall
as he stands in her kitchen with his squirrel.

What he needs now is a knife.

Felicia Mitchell is rooted in the low country of South Carolina, but has lived in southwestern Virginia for 22 years and calls it home. She is the author of 3 chapbooks, including The Cleft of the Rock, which was published by Finishing Line Press in 2009. Her poems have appeared in a variety of print and online publications, including Southern Women’s Review, PMS (Poemmemoirstory), and the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. She teaches at Emory & Henry College.