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Andrew McCall

On breaking their necks

To botany students taking an exam

On breaking their necks

Sure, I’ve done it several times.  It comes naturally
To me.  I began at my own windows – birds whistled into
The glass and fell, sometimes more than one

Arrayed and suffering on the ground. I found them
Nearly every time.  The titmice never died quickly, the wrens
Lingered for hours, but they all seemed to know

What was going to happen.  I swear I waited.  In hopes
That they would flutter away, but they just chirped
As if they were fledglings again.  It was easy

To end it, just a twist of my thumb and forefinger
On the neck’s bridge, as if snapping a toothpick.   I learned
This trick from my dad.  It was what we did with problems.

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To botany students taking an exam

I swear that looking
At your pained faces
Gives me no joy. Erase
What you need to.
Remember.  Erase again.
Repeat until you know.

You may find yourself
On a bank or a roadside
Fixing a tire or mapping
The distance to home
When a slate or rock
Falls on your sneaker.

It cracks - see - there is a fern
The one on that test,
It has a heart-shaped base,
Great lizards never saw it,
It has broken for no eye
In 300 million years.

Close the shale. 
Keep this secret fact:
No creature will see it again
Through Human eyes, until
Man has shriveled away and
Something new arises.

This is why I trouble you
Today: Now is the time
To strain in preparation
For this rock unbidden
And the life of great age
That opens, then shuts.

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Andrew McCall’s work has been published in Blood Lotus Journal, Nibble, The New Mexico Poetry Review and 2River View.  He was raised in St. Louis and now work as a professor of biology at Denison University. When not writing or teaching, he enjoys running and taking apart microscopes.

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