Slugs from a twenty-two pump
shattered the snow.
The rabbit zigzagged grass clumps
frozen stiff above the surface,
tumbled high in the air,
recovered, bounded into the woods.
They chased it five minutes or more
before losing it in the twisted
scrub oak, gullies and piss elm.
Uncle Joe was there, Little Joe, Robert and him.
The woods held the cold close to the ground,
numbing his feet in his boots.
He had not fired the shotgun that day;
they cursed a wasted shot.
He kept thinking of beef stew and hot chocolate,
heat by the stove in the farmhouse.
Then he saw it bobbing in the brush,
circling away from their voices.
It clawed forward, dragging its rump,
leaving the snow red.
He waited until it reached the ditch
not five feet away,
watched it paw down the slope,
flattened its head with a direct blast.
Home two weeks
he buttoned borrowed corduroy,
walked in a line
with his cousins and uncles
as they always had,
heading north from the tractor shed.
Not twenty yards out
a rabbit behind a combine wheel,
a small gray rabbit,
panicked, paddled a drift
for a place in the trash pile.
He squatted, sighted, military style,
elbows on his knees, ready to fire,
but stood up with a blood oath:
I will not shoot another living thing.
By God, I will not.