Alan: When I first met Nancy, over 40 years ago, she was known for doing things like taking her pocket knife and cutting the heads off of very ripe roadkill dogs, then tying them under the school bus for some budding young naturalist to take home to boil down for the skull. Thus the following, which my friend, the poet Keith Emmons, helped me make better.
Teaching What Happens
Someone had to do it, she said.
Pick up dead things.
Teach children what happens;
after the stench
the beauty of bone.
People assumed she liked it
seeing the rolled bags and the knife.
One child said later
it was the animals spoke to us through the knife.
With their skins and teeth,
their feathers, their hair,
their claws of hair and horns of hair
they danced at the roadside
and fell, their hair in grass,
their eyes domes of cloud.
They were taken back without ornament.
Yet it had to be done, she felt.
It seemed it was through her
they learned to speak.
Nancy: The life around us may be amusing or may be unsettling. But oh the early dawn face of the bat, clinging to the window screen, is so unlike ours.
Day Faces, Night Face
Peering out of a thicket of knees and elbows,
mantis turns her head, revealing a face so alien
I would be unable to imagine it, so alien
it surprises me again and again.
Sometimes toad backs himself into the ground
until he is all face, chin resting on long
fingers, eyes deeply gold, unblinking, and I
feel myself observed, I, would would be observer.
Nose, tongue, eye, ear, vibrissae, cat chases
squirrel, dog chases cat, their faces curve as
if laughing, and I laugh too, to see how like
they are to some half-hidden inner self.
Ah, bat, you on the other side of my window
screen, yours is the night face. We may love
the bat, our friend the bat, for his sharp
teeth and convenient appetites, but I would rather
see a fox look back at me from a mirror. Bat,
now, before dawn finds you, slip out of mind,
slip back into the dark shelter of the eaves.
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