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My brothers would go there to shoot the rats

that ravaged the bodies of dead strays

laid out in trenches like those I'd seen before

in pictures of  Auschwitz— deep ruts spanning

the property's width behind the small cinder

block building that housed the living,


waiting animals. Once, a small black bear

paced in circles in one of the cages. 

My father took me there again to choose

a kitten, my own dead beneath the wheels

of his car. And once, my bicycle crunched

up the gravel drive past the kennels

to the back of the building, where two men

in dark uniforms waited beside a truck,        


a dog-sized metal box resting in the bed.

Rubber tubing ran from the closed box

to the exhaust. The engine whined softly

as the driver leaned against  the fender,

smoking a Camel. Howls of laughter from

both men—a  joke about something. Crushing


his smoke with his boot heel, one turned and barked

"Go home. This ain't no place for a girl." Later,

when the pound had been left to the lost

and abandoned, I returned to search

the twilight ditches for that certain dog—

impossible in the piles upon piles

of furred bodies—those that were still, and those

others darting darkly among them.