Today's poem is by Claire Millikin

The Foxes

Step by step, door by door, she opened the house
to pasture and fields beyond.
The unlocked doors swayed like adolescent girls
on newly long legs, unpracticed.
Horses grazed to thresholds, and feral dogs
haunted the edges, drawn from pinewoods.
Into her house came the animals uncalled—
to her need, her tenderness,
the sweet hollow of her hands. She stroked them, bereft,
for what's lost when you truly cannot speak of it.

A family of foxes soon made their den
in her defunct fireplace. She'd burn
no more fires, but the hearth flickered
red-gold fur as the mother fox curled
to nurse her infants. I remember their eyes
like embers, bright and wet, the part of the fire
that survives, stronger than ash. The fox watched
us children come into her house and gradually let
my hand reach nearer, further, further
into the hearth at last holding my breath to stroke
that fur like silken earth, bright soil made vivid,
Georgia's red clay tempered, a flame the hand could bear.

What burned in that house? Her husband
and daughter dead—echoed shots in the field when he'd caught
the girl in the crosshairs and she folded into earth.
The foxes flourished, mourned for no one,
svelte shoulders lilting. They shouldered
what none human could, making their home
in the hearth while my aunt smoked another,
her still beautiful, toothless face catching light from the fireplace—
visitant sheen and flash of fox.

Copyright © 2014 Claire Millikin All rights reserved
from Museum of Snow
Grayson Books
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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