Dead Mouse

by Jordan Durham

In wintertime, they came. Swarms, at least
five at a time, out of the fields for the closeness
of our heat. We never saw them until after,
which often took weeks through measured
ways of living, surviving each day’s cold.
It wasn’t until the day we heard one for hours—
squeaking, scurrying, and then glue-stuck, so as not
to be—that we realized we didn’t understand
what was considered a death meant for humanity
or a humane death. The hours my mother and I
listened to a slow withdrawal. A fought against
ending of which my mother only knew from her
last week in bed, lying motionless beyond
the tiny cave of her chest expanding, contracting.
This mouse yearned for life, as we didn’t
do anything beyond listen and hope it called
to its others. Tired of their racing across our feet
while completing simple tasks—brushing
hair, which was another type of consolation
and concession. Or pellets left behind on top of
clean clothes. This winter I did the laundry
and scrubbed floors while frost thickened
across the panes. Wind in its brusque tone tumbled
through the cracks and bent the house in mirror to
outside’s bare trees. I continued to pull the sheets
above my mother’s body and listened to the cries
as I found a hair, indistinguishable from either
of us, gently curled next to a slightly still-warmed body.