The Mice

For the Greeks, who had no word for irreversible death, one did
not die, one darkened.

—Mark Strand

Where the Japanese iris right
now stand ready to
accept the inevitable
purple blossom

she found four dead mice
in their nest of dirt and dusty fur
all with their small ears pointed like pilgrims
toward the trunk of the huge cottonwood.

What happened here?
Cat? Owl? Dog? A silent disease?
Or had they just frozen one night as the air
on their bodies fell back to winter?

Their dusk bodies were soft as she picked them up
unsure of whether to leave them buried where they would
melt back into earth, first fur, then intestine,
vertebra, and finally small pocket of skull.

She put a rock over them but came back later,
removed them to a black plastic bag, afraid
of something, some disease, that the cat
would chew on them, get sick, maybe die.

Now where the grave was there is a space
in the clump of iris, a darkness, an open mouth.