She doesn’t know the words—

winch, hood, headlights—

to describe what hit her, or that

her cracked candy cane of tibia

juts through her skin, striped with blood.

When you touch her honey-colored fur,

her ticks swarm onto your skin.

Her heart is already dissolving into insects.

Her heavy striped teeth

could snap off your thumb.

A cuff of her cloven hoof

could unhinge your jaw.

But she doesn’t kick, only swivels her ears

at the sound of steel-toed boots on gravel.

You better close your eyes,

says the camo-jacketed yokel,

releasing the safety catch.

This ain’t gonna be pretty.

He takes aim but her pride won’t accept mercy.

You watch her rise like a mangled puppet

and hobble across the highway into the trees.

You think she’ll live.

You won’t understand until you’re fourteen

how we limp through the crowds

until we reach the darkest forest of the mind,

where we can finally die in peace.