Anne Haines

Snow at Midnight

The way snow piles up on branches,
perfectly aligned and silent,
makes my heart break
in this hushed white midnight world
and the tracks of a small animal
moving, I hope, to someplace warm
send me back into my house,
stomping and harrumphing.

I’ve been catching mice. Four times
this week I’ve found them
trembling in the live trap,
their black eyes and pink feet
tiny and perfect.
I release them in the park
near a stream, or in the woods—
places with beds of dry leaves
to huddle in. Just kill them, some
friends say, but I can’t. They’re wild
, others reassure me,
they can acclimate. I’m not so sure.
I think their whole lives have been
lived inside my house and they’re not
prepared for winter. I think
I consign them to death, taking them
outside. I don’t know
what else to do

and curse myself for my uncertainty
and for being tender-hearted
towards vermin.
But in the small cage, trapped,
they are so scared and so alive.
I can’t do this any differently.

I peek through the curtains. Still snowing.
Out there somewhere, little
brown mice. And in here, where it’s warm
alone and maybe safe
in this small house,
my little trembling heart.


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