A Trapper's True Story

I once was a trapper
and where I made footsteps
I echoed a shadow of blood.

I gripped every season with
my bare hands and did what I
had to do, sometimes more,

though I knew I would die
and lie naked underground,
my skin like every winter's ice.

One day, as I checked my
lines, I walked into a clearing
where morning unveiled amazing
pure light. I knew myself more

than alive, and that very instant
I saw the mother fox in my trap.

She'd been nursing her kits, four
of them, while my jagged vice
cut into her flesh to the bone;

she'd been crazy with fear and pain,
I could tell, for there was much
blood splattered all around.

And as I walked toward the vixen,
she raised her head to watch me
come through the clearing. And she

gently picked up each one of her
young by the neck, one at a time,
and lay it close to her breath
and licked her milk from its face,

and snapped its neck. She did that
to all four before I could reach her.

And as she watched me over her
newly born, over her dead she had
saved from my hands, I knew
I would never trap again. And I

never have, though I killed her
with one bullet as she lay back
waiting to die. I buried the mother

and her fur, and tonight, in the
warming nighttime of spring, I wonder
if ever I'll sleep until morning again.

from the book "Beside the Hemlock Garden"