He stops me dead
at a crossroads between day and night—
a badger lying on the road
as if he is sleeping
in his striped pyjamas.
I can see his bristled pelt,
his snout all gored,
the staggered rise and fall
of his chest like a troubled engine.
I leave the car and approach him,
lay my hand on his back.
A porcine grunt sticks in my throat
like a question.
You have always wanted
to see a badger up close
but not like this, in extremis,
under the headlights’ surgical glare,
kneeling in my blood.
No, you are not like your father
who once euthanased a rabbit
with a mallet called a priest.
You were always the one who
baulked and flinched,
who could not bear the weight
of a stick or stone.
So now, you are going to drive on,
with those two crows circling the sky,
the darkness around me dilating
like a dying eye.
Louise McKenna’s work has been widely published. In 2013 she was shortlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize. Her chapbook, The Martyrdom of Bees, is published by Garron Press.