for Rosalind Pace

This is how I saved one animal’s life,
I raised the lid of the stove and lifted the hook
that delicately held the cheese—I think it was bacon —
so there could be goodness and justice under there.
It was a thirty-inch range with the pilot lit
in the center of two small crosses. It was a Wincroft
with a huge oven and two flat splash pans above it.
The four burners were close together, it was
a piece of white joy, from 1940 I’d judge
from the two curved handles, yet not as simple as
my old Slattery, not as sleek. I owe
a lot to the woman who gave me this house, she is
a lover of everything big and small, she moans
for certain flowers and insects, I hear her snuffle
all night sometimes, I hear her groan. She gave me
a bed and a kitchen, she gave me music, I couldn’t be
disloyal to her, and yet I had to lift
the murderous hook. I’ll hear her lectures later
on my inconsistencies and hypocrisies;
I’ll struggle in the meantime, like everyone else, to make
my way between the stove and refrigerator
without sighing or weeping too much. Mice
are small and ferocious. If I killed one it wouldn’t be
with poison or traps. I couldn’t just use our weapons
without some compensation. I’d have to be present —
if it was a trap —and hear it crash and lift
the steel myself and look at the small flat nose
or the small crushed head, I’d have to hold the pallet
and drop the body into a bag. I ask
forgiveness of butchers and hunters; I’m starting to talk
to vegetarians now, I’m reading books,
I’m washing my icebox down with soda and lye,
I’m buying chicory, I’m storing beans.
I should have started this thirty years ago,
holding my breath, eating ozone, starving,
sitting there humming, feeling pure and indignant
beside the chewed up bags and the black droppings.