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Sue Millard

A pipistrelle, caught by the cat with one
needle-clawed swipe in last night's hunting spree,
lies here uneaten - its thin chamois stretched
across fine finger bones, chewed to black lace.
You reach out softly: 'Can we draw it, please?'
The marvellousness of a mouse that flies!

Helping you, I'm again the timid child
beyond a schoolyard stack of broken desks
stroking a sparrow's beautiful dead wing.
I knew death would be unforgiving- cold
rain would spatter dirt and tag the feathers,
the body stink until the maggots crawl;
I itched to draw that flirting rustling
tiered array of primaries, to keep back
something from the dust, before the bullies
clawed it from my hand and shrieked disgust.
I wrenched those pretty feathers from the corpse,
hid them, then showed, with lies, my empty palms.

I teach you, now, watching through younger eyes
your pencil shape the outline of a wing.
Your hands quick in your work, your questioning
full of delight at capturing a fact,
you look me in the face un-shamed: as if
through death you touch the beauty that is life.