Elizabeth Levitski

Cricket, Dying

Spring and the forest floor is covered white
in a blanket of trillium. I’m cleaning windows.
The hummingbird has just announced his timely arrival two feet
from my face, zipped away for his fix of nectar
and outside in the kennel nearest the house, Cricket is dying.
She walks in morbid circles, her back bends
closer to the earth that calls her home.

Fifteen years old this July, the last of her litter still alive,
with thousands of companionable miles
under her feet, Cricket is taking the slow way out —
her wearied heart, determined to keep its time.

Yesterday I stopped to help a turtle cross the road
but its flesh was already beginning to ooze
from its crushed shell, though its legs,
when I picked it up, still moved.
I could not bring myself to relieve it of its misery
so I cried instead for its strong
dumb heart, the futile pump of blood to its legs

the way I’m crying now for my mother
thinking of the thrill her heart must have felt
when at nineteen years old she pushed her way
into the crowd of men and ran with the bulls at Pamplona.
And at forty seven,

how it held its own long after her ovaries spilled the cancer
through the rest of her and the chemotherapy did her kidneys in.
Make it stop, make it stop, she begged me
and I knew it wasn’t the pain she meant
when she reached for the pillow. But I couldn’t do it

so for two weeks longer we watched
as she waited on her deathbed like a hitchhiker
with a sore thumb. This is why
when I look out at Cricket
and she lifts her head to my voice
and locks her eyes into mine,
I know what she wants me to do.