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To a Capybara

I wanted your blunt beauty,

broad snout like a damp cliff,

the buck-toothed mouth

of your cavy body, round,

deep enough to lose a boy

inside. I could have kept you,

watched you stretch in my arms

from slick pup to bristled boar,

measured the spread of your webs,

the slope of your saddle. 

A child, I wanted to ride

away on a gentle, sturdy mount

through a cage door left wide open.

You were real. I was imaginary,

stalking the hallways of the mall

with Mom on our weekly hunt

for some trace of your scat

in the Borders, your DNA

in the papers nests of Pet City

guinea pigs, your miniatures.

She let me fill her house

with the sweet stink of their short lives.

Starving for we didn't learn what

until too late, their flesh unfurred

to ghost-gray. Reaching heaven

would take them years, decades,

she said at the shoebox burials, so long

I'd stop believing before they arrived.

Friend, meet them on that shore.

Tell them I'm bigger. Tell them not to wait.

[Thanks to Carve for originally printing this piece.]

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