This compelling prose poem appears in Em Strang's first collection, Bird-Woman, just out from Shearsman Books.
In Memoriam Jyoti Singh
I'm carrying the hare along the road. One of its back legs is hanging by a single tendon, blood seeping slowly in the cold. It's early morning, but the hare is late. The school bus has taken it by surprise, for the last time. I'm holding it like a newborn baby, one hand beneath its head, the other beneath its backside. It's heavy. It weighs roughly as much as a fully grown, well-fed tomcat. It's the kind of weight I'd prefer to sling over my shoulder.
For some time now, I've been unable to let the images go: the bus in the semi-dark, the young woman and her male friend; the blood on the men's hands and all their wide eyes in the confines of the vehicle; the metal air; the woman's voice which I can hear, again and again, no matter where I look.
The body is still warm and limp, still supple, and I keep half-expecting its eyes to blink, its legs to jerk awake. I half-expect the hare to jump and charge away from me. But it doesn't. I carry it into the woods and put it down beneath a rhododendron bush. I lay it out in such a way that the gashed leg is invisible and it looks, it really looks, as though the hare is wide alive and running. It doesn't matter whether I'm doing this for me or for all hares.
I find a few branches and twigs and make a kind of woody tent over the body. I don't do this for other roadkill, but I've been watching the hares all year – there's a pair. Or there was. They circle the house like sentinels, beginning on the eastern side with the sun and working their way round through the orchard, past the hen-run and into the woods. I watch them through the windows, their black-tipped ears, their long, powerful hind-legs that work like suspension coils, easing the body up and forward, down and forward, perpetually sprung; ready, I supposed, for the unexpected.
By now it's a familiar story. The woman with a young, smiling face and soft skin. Her softness in the last light of the evening. All the shouting men, their mouths, their drenched clothes.
It's a small back road with little traffic, but the school bus passes twice a day and the driver doesn't mean to hit it. He's late and the kids are waiting, out in the cold on a corner of turf.
I stroke its long ears back against its head, stroke its fine coat, white belly, small face. Hares have kinetic skulls – they're jointed – which allows for a degree of movement between the front and back sections. It helps absorb the force of impact as the hare strikes the ground.
The iron bar. The shadow faces. The quiet glistening of the steering wheel, an empty glass bottle, an eye.