The smartest man I know is dying of cancer,
spreading to his bones and cruelly, to his brain.
"Come look back here," he says when I visit.
"They knew even before I did."
Six ravens walk – stately, slow, with purpose –
across his yard, an avian funeral cortège.
"They've been here since spring," he adds.
He points to a corner near the fence.
"That one has a broken wing.
Got it robbing a blue jay's nest."
He feeds her raw chicken and steak but says he knows
that soon she'll ask for death, and he'll oblige.
"They won't do the same for me," he says.
I don't know what to say.
"When she's gone, her fellows will have
a feast of her carcass,” he says without malice,
“just as they will with mine."
I try to protest, but I know it's true.
Already there's talk that his research is passé.
At lunch, I see my reflection in a soup spoon.
Gaunt, in a grimy dress and Burger King crown,
she occupies the median
with timely crayon-scrawled edicts:
"Happy Spring" in April,
"Whew, it's Hot" in August,
"Boo" at Halloween.
From Lexus comfort,
drivers proffer coins through half-closed windows
that she grabs, stone-faced,
with yellow rubber kitchen gloves.
I drive on wishing she had a cape.
A cape would solve everything.
Sarah Russell is in metaphor rehab after a career teaching, writing and editing academic prose. Her poetry and short stories are slowly finding their way into anthologies and a couple of literary mags. She mortifies her grandchildren by giving them homemade sweaters on their birthdays.