Dilemma by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
If I tell my son his mouse is dying
I may as well tell him the rest:
her shallow breath means her lungs are deflating,
causing the rest of her organs to slowly betray
her. If he asks me if it’s painful, well.
What can hide him
from that truth? Her cage
is littered with her loss of strength:
untouched water bottle, food pellets
staling in the pink plastic bowl.
If I tell him she’s dying I may as well tell him
the worst of it, that his father and I
knew exactly what we were doing
when we encouraged him to choose her,
the fastest mouse of the dozens
of albinos in the pet store’s glass aquarium, yes,
we brought her home to die and hoped
that in his grief he might learn the hard fact
of life. We named it mercy. We named it introduction.
Better now than let sorrow catch him later.
And if I tell him that I may as well tell him
I was wrong. What was I thinking. As if
arming him with this one little death
were protection enough.