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Saying Kaddish for a Bird & Mammalia

Poetry, Sarah Foote

Saying Kaddish for a Bird

To put her body in the garden seemed fitting.

A return to Eden, small ochre beak

into leafy brush. The dirt surrounded

her like water. Wings for oars, rowing

motionless through soil. It sounded ridiculous,

but I wanted to honor her in prayer. Between

gulping sobs, I pondered appropriateness.

Not even a proper convert yet, my tongue

pushed and fumbled the Hebrew and Aramaic,

twisted like earthworms reaching for roots,

seeking transcendence through transliteration.


Elephants are matriarchal,

their blood cords the pachydermal

mother-daughter inheritance:

how to mud, sun, trumpet. How to survive.

There are 40,000 muscles in a single trunk.

How dare we assume we share

the same senses? To what extent

do we even compare?

Bonded familially, we are still more

similar than dissimilar to them, but

it is impossible to speak of elephants

without murmurings of poachers

left on our dust-dry lips.

Bloodlust interrupts bloodlines,

carves trauma into thick skin

and lineage, as in ivory.


Sarah A. Foote (she/her) is a thirty-something bisexual Jew who used to think she would live on a farm when she grew old. She maintained she wouldn’t die alone since she planned to have many horses, but would have no husband because "he might impede [her] writing career." Decades later, she settled in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia, with her wife and three animals (none of them horses). She spends her days trying to get affordable housing built across the state, drinking cortados whenever possible, and playing music in an outlaw-country-post-rock outfit called Ghost Tooth.


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