TONI LA REE BENNETT

The Fox is Dead
 
From a distance it looks 
like an ink blot
on paper. A mistake.
 
An interruption of the smooth
sand, a dark stain on the white
body of the beach.
 
My mother spots it first. Our footprints do not 
match, do not even go in the same direction,
but for a while, we are walking the same beach. 
 
I have been obsessed with foxes all my life,
envying their elegance, intelligence, 
their colorful, sleek, and fashionable bodies. 
 
But my totem is a bear, I am told. Defiant, I fill 
my house with vulpine icons. I do not want a
large, lumbering, shaggy creature to define me.
 
But a bear is strong, my mother reminds me,
and doggedly protects her cubs. Yes, I 
am capable of that. I am no fox-mother
 
who dances under the moon every night
garbed in well-groomed fur, while my children 
huddle together in the den, alone and vulnerable.
 
It is smaller than I expected, and not the variegated 
wonder I have worshipped. The water has uncomplicated 
the cream-tipped apricot fur edged with chocolate
 
leaving only a mass of unpretentious, matted hair. 
The sodden and diminished tail sways sorrowfully 
as the moon sends the tide to wrest retribution.
 
Gaping, I watch the sea slowly swallow the corpse as
my mother, unable to confront this innuendo of her own
dissipation, leaves me on the beach, alone, for the last time.

2003 Toni La Ree Bennett

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