I am the Reaper. I am drunk on sweet berry wine
and here to harvest the souls
of your pets. Dogs and cats mostly.
I was late on the day they were assigning jobs
so I got domestic animals – I fish the soul of Simba
the crustacean out of the toilet
or claim Boris the terrier,
run over by his owner in the driveway.
In death, as in life - your animals are playful
and irreverent, nipping at the angels
and slobbering out the window
of the carriage of death.
I come home late for dinner and my wife takes sympathetic note
of the pale indentations on my skeleton
where the ferrets have been knitting their claws.
She kisses the top of my skull and says, “oh, honey,"
and we eat noodles and butter
in front of the television.
When I first started
I would see the faces every night
in my dreams,
The lizards that got and trapped
behind the furnace in the basement,
the old dogs, guileless, and with silver fur
around their eyes.
I thought it was to be permanent.
I thought these ghosts would be a mystical curse of the job
until one night I went to bed stoned
and dreamt that I could breathe underwater.
I lay down on the ocean floor and closed my eyes
and have not dreamt of animals since.
It is twilight at the veterinarian's office when you bring in Mittens,
fourteen and with a bad liver.
I wait in the corner. You put your hand on
her side, and she looks up at you with love
and with understanding. When the doctor takes out the needle,
Mittens does not make a sound.
She will come quietly,
I can tell.
I am tired and she is tired. We have had long days.