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Proper Burial

Bonus Poem from 2021 1st Place Winner Jennifer Fandel

When we turn the earth
in our yard for garden,
the last tenant’s burials

emerge as bones.
Let us say some words
for every creature that breathed

its last, for the rabbits, birds,
and squirrels, for the dog
and the stray cat that came

for mice and rest,
when the dog was gone
 and the baby possum

that once stewed in the scent
of dirt and sleep, the insects cometh,
and the moles that shrugged off

the little life left in them,
removed from their steely traps.
My grandmother refused to be buried

in the Catholic cemetery
because of a gopher problem
and laid her money down

for a municipal plot. Digging up
bones picked clean, I understand.
Last spring, arctic air swept

the plains and a foot of snow fell
after the robins had arrived,
the worms shrinking

below the refrozen soil.
My husband found a robin
lying in the snow and thought

he felt the heart still beating,
the bird’s dark eye frozen open.
He carried the robin inside,

lay its body in a shoebox
 under a scrap of wool,
as if a bed tucked into.



Jennifer Fandel is the first-place winner of the Wisconsin People & Ideas 2021 Poetry Contest.

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