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In his hell Dante forgot you,
forgot your jagged knives, your reptilian airs.
Perhaps he couldn't see your fire
sinking to a depth colder than you

or the shape of things in the bend of your knees
beneath scales and the deep grin
of one who half-listens
or only seems to listen

to what drowning voices say.
Above, you watch me watch;
below, your tail propels you
to where my flashbulb

betrays your bloody face
lighting the tooth that can never fit
into the mouth that gathers all,
the mouth that carefully carries your eggs

toward the hunger that shatters spines
or curls around an arm or foot
to raise the dead
into the bellies of the living.
-- Linda Ramey

The Opossum
Beauty of mold, weevil, spider,
aardvark, thunder-worm, condor,

the quagga, the puffer, the kudo,
and this: the opossum

with her babies hanging on, gray lumps
all around the scaly tail

that was bent back over her back, like a sailboat's boom,
for the very small and oh! almost human baby-fingers

to cling to. At first I thought
it was some pitiful, broken thing

lumping along over the scrubby leaves,
and then I saw the brown dog-softness of her long-lashed eye

as, swiftly, with that wobbling burden of life upon her,
she ran.
-- Mary Oliver

OnEarth. Fall 2003
Copyright 2003 by the Natural Resources Defense Council