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)