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For Clare

I saw a brown shape in the unmown grass,
half-hidden in a tuft, and crouching down
to get a closer look, I found a young rabbit,
no bigger than my hand, trembling there
in its makeshift nest. And I thought of John Clare:
this was one of his creatures in my own yard,
pressed close to the earth, timid and alone,
almost a visitation from the “bard
of the fallow field and the green meadow,”
who loved the things of nature for what they are.
It didn’t run away when I parted the grass
and stroked its soft fur, but quivered in fear,
the arteries in its small translucent ears
glowing red, its dark eyes wide. I thought
of keeping it, at least for a few days,
feeding it bread and lettuce, giving it water
from an eye dropper. Then it did run away
in little bounds to the edge of the woods,
and into the woods. I thought again of Clare,
how, after he escaped from the asylum,
he walked almost a hundred miles home,
lost, delusional, beyond anyone’s care,
waking soaked in a ditch beside the road,
so hungry that he fed himself on grass.

This poem originally ran in the March 24, 2011, issue of the magazine.