Ted Kooser

In the predawn cold and darkness,
it was only a pinch of light,
not more than a cup of warmth,
as a farmer carried it over the snow
to the barn where his dozen cows
stood stomping, heavy with milk
in the milky cloud of their lowing.
But that was many years ago,
and his lantern has rusted,
its last fumes lost on the seasons
like the breath of those cows.
But at the last he thought to leave
a fresh ribbon of wick coiled up
in the chimney in case it was ever
needed again, a dollar’s worth
of preparation. And, getting prepared
for a later winter, a pregnant mouse
was able to squeeze through a vent
and unravel that wick and make
a cottony nest with dusty
panoramic windows, and there to raise
her bald and mewling pissy brood,
and then for them to disappear,
the way we all, one day, move on,
leaving a little, sharp whiff
of ourselves in the dirty bedding.

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