Original Sin
Laing, Alexander (1903-1981)

I remember now how first I knew what death was.
I remember the air rifle, the Daisy pump gun,
Smelling of 3-in-One oil, and stiff in action.
Fire at random.  Fire at a flying crow.
Aim at his yellow beak.  While the bullet files,
The heart of the crow will fly to where the beak was.

Fire at a perch in water, but remember
How the oar bends along the line of sight,
Making a sliding joint upon the surface.
Remember that, and aim below the perch.
Fire at a tin can, which the BB shot
Can puncture if the muzzle of the air gun
Is almost touching.  Fire at a stone, sharp angled,
And hear the tsing, the ricochet, the whining
Snip of the torn bullet, tearing the oak leaves.

Do not fire at a chipmunk, or a pigeon.
Fire at a crow, fire at an English sparrow.
Use up the little money rolls of shot.
Fire at the sharp rat-noses in the holes
Under the chicken coop.  Life dodges quickly.

And then the day came when I knew what death was--
The day when life, intent on feather-preening,
Was late in lunging upward from the twig.

Warm in the hand, its flight forever ended,
Death was a fallen sparrow, with chipmunk markings,
And a small blue bubble of lead under the skin.

New Yorker Book of Poems (Viking)