At first he seemed plump and quick but simply arrested,
the chipmunk lying sidelong on the terrace flagstone
as if taking a nap. Butterflies sipped at his fur.
Their wings, black with coppery spots when held upright,
jet with azure lozenges when fanned wide.
Emerald-spangled flies attended.
At midday beetles arrived, business-like
in black suits, a black dot on each gold head.
Hour by hour the chipmunk shrank. Next day
tiny ribs emerged through the fuzz of pelt,
spindly as fish bones. Eye a blurred disk in the skull.
An Admiral sucked assiduosly from a paw.
Soon the corpse would be less than a leaf, just smudge on stone.
July tilted into August. Soon we would leave.
Dawn leaked grayly across the meadow
from a fountain of bird trills as days drained out
in a trickle of confidences and lapsed exchanges.
We marked that month in the almanac.
We reported our presence to others, paid the bills.
Something, at least, we would retain.
Rosanna Warren teaches in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Her most recent book of poems is Ghost in a Red Hat.