So a man approaches, straight-arming a knot of nylon—

You got anything to cut fishing line?

Dangling head-down by its tail, the chipmunk.


Unnatural stillness—

immaculate precision of stripes along his back,


glassy eyes of the sacrificial beast.


Found him on the bank, all tuckered out.

The creature, set down gently, tries a hamstrung scramble—

helpless to escape the line, the nearness of humans.


Oh, bless his heart, oh, bless his heart,

my handwringing compassion mutters, useless.


Someone pulls out an army knife, opens scissors, hesitates.

The quandary—how to hold the pygmy head, avoid the bite.


How long the struggle at the water’s edge,

tiny lungs panting against a sodden weight?

Since sunup, I bet, else coyote, owl, or snake.


… something in the car … the army knife guy goes, comes back—

square of fringed fabric held out before him, an offering.


Reader, you who scoff at too much story in poems,

or poems that reach for meaning,


bear with me.


I’ve got to tell this right—

He brings a prayer shawl from the car.


Wrapped tenderly in lavish browns and grays,

the chipmunk grows still, scissors snip.


Release is the human word for chipmunk.


A dash of stripes and tail. He’s gone.