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Marita Over

One Christmas morning before church,
we ran out to the yard through thick, fast snow
to feed our rats, and found the female
quivering by a silent pile of stillborns.

One or two had been chewed at,
but most of them were complete.
No hair: just blotches where the fur
would have grown black.

My brother frowned
and with his blunt, quick fingers
swivelled a wooden catch to let
the door swing open.

With one hand he stopped the mother jumping
and with his other,
lifted out the shapes
and laid them on the snow one at a time.

As we walked the mile to church
we split his chocolate orange
then got there cold and late
and had to sit down quietly at the back.

O little town of Bethlehem, they sang,
as we squeezed gloved hands
to make the blood come back.


Marita Over