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.