Short Takes, edited by Judith Kitchen

"September," Lia Purpura

Laid out perfectly where they fell in the tall grass, half sunk in the soft ground—the bones of a small cat. And how long did it take for the bones to clean, for the flesh to slip off and the eyes burn away? The shape the body made was placid-seeming, unlike the animals of prehistory, who, trapped in tar in the posture of shock, in half-light on a cave wall, are forever outrunning fire, weather, attack. In caves their broad, simple bodies are sketched in ochre flight: fear is the black cipher of an open mouth, the red oxide smudge on a flank. But I found these bones in the shape of sleep, of full and open expectancy, mid-stride in an airy leap. Waiting for. I learned it takes only days for a small animal's body to decompose at this time of year, to return itself to bone, to its simplest components—carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur. To press its outline back into the soft earth, which is a welcoming, rich place still, late summer. A home receiving the body in, expecting it.