What is death?

by Sarah Letteer

Roadkill, whether bones or fresh and bleeding, is an excellent example.

A little black Labrador cross used to wait for us to come home,

Laying by the road.


Cold, in ninety degree weather.

She was my grandfather’s dog.

I still can’t remember if he cried.

My beagle likes to kill things, always has.

I climbed through an overgrown pasture in the pitch black

to drag her away from some small screaming animal that I couldn’t even see.

I was so angry I had no problem scooping her up despite her wriggling.

I bled like a stuck pig as soon as I could see again, from all the damned reaching briars.

I wonder now if the creature bled like that too.

She brought us a newborn deer once, neck broken, but otherwise


I say brought,

I mean she had the misfortune of being seen by me

and having her sweet little prize stolen from her.

A few years later, burying my pet rabbit, we came across the bones of that little deer.

Bones are so much smaller than you think.

My mother found deer vertebra once, with cartilage still between them.

I was ten years old and fascinated by the movement,

wondering how such a small range of motion between these two fist-sized bones

could combine into the marvel of a spine,

that thing in my back that crunches and aches when I twist wrong.

I found beauty in such a strange little object, once a little creature just like me.

My life is memento mori.

We have probably a hundred pets buried on our property.

I walk over their skeletons every day.

All loved

all known

all cared for

all dust.

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