Rabbit in moonlight
startles as my door opens and clicks shut,
but rabbit doesn’t run:
it waits, poised on my lawn, interrupted.
If I don’t get too close,
it will ignore me, eat grass again.
in a world of startling relationships.
I walk toward it, waving my hands
to scare it away. “Get out! Go!”
It eats the tulips and daffodils.
It hops off, hides
under a clump of bushes that divide
my neighbors’ house from mine.
I stand in the street, breathe
air without a mask. No one else is there.
The full moon spreads
across lawns and asphalt
in the silence of pestilence,
in the empty waste of a neighborhood indoors,
focused on TV and the Internet
or holding hands, asleep.
Moon seeps into their dreams.
Moon welcomes rabbits and owls,
prey and hunters: somewhere,
a person coughs and keeps coughing.
Somewhere, someone is packed away
into a refrigerated trailer in a body bag
while moonlight flows
across angles and walls humming
a generator’s steady prayers.
No, those are your prayers.
These are my hands spread wide,
moonlight filling my palms
as I stand in the empty street in the night.
Moon spills through my fingers,
down my arms, drip, drip, drip,
then a door slams, and I flee back inside.
Image: “Rabbit in the headlights” by Martyn Fletcher, licensed under CC 2.0.
This poem started with a photograph because I’d been unable to write much since the beginning of the pandemic. I thought a photo would help me feel I was still creative. I stepped outside to see the full moon and saw a rabbit munching its way across our lawn in the moonlight. I snapped a photo, admired the moon, then went back inside to surf the Internet for more news about the coronavirus and read about trailers New York City hospitals were using for morgues. This was close to the peak of the deaths there in the first wave of the virus. I posted my photo on Instagram then went back outside, and there was that same rabbit, still eating our grass. I shouted at it. It just looked at me. Our neighborhood has been overrun with rabbits for several years now, and they destroy the lawns, gardens, backyards. I once thought of them as a pestilence. I ran toward it, waving my arms and shouting. It hopped away, disappearing under the hedge of bushes separating our house from our neighbors’ house. As I stood there, I realized how quiet everything was; not even any traffic on the main street behind us disturbed the silence. I breathed in the quiet and tried to breathe out my fear, and then went inside and wrote this poem.