Clade Song 9

After Birth

On the front step—an orange
Nike shoebox held shut

with an elastic headband. I don’t
know what animal has been left

this time. Inside—a pool of blood
dampens bare brown cardboard. The sun

like a bright fist rises. I don’t want this
now, five in the morning and already

another dead thing—but in pink light
I see the blood is a placenta, attached

to a blind gray cloud of kitten. Her chest
quivers with breath. The blood

is her mother’s. An animal who doesn’t eat

her afterbirth leaves the kit, squawking
and blind, to die. As placenta decomposes,

umbilicus transfers living rot into the body
which I am holding here, in a cardboard box. I’m afraid

of the necessary severing. What if she bleeds,
what if she’s already beginning

to decay from within, bacteria filling
the smallest arteries, smallest heart,

smallest hungry belly? I lay her on a towel, across
from the gummy mass of tissue. It clings

to the fibers and she mewls, sniffs out warmth. Take
a hemostat, clamp umbilical cord and watch

the tissue become dead, and dry, and gray—then cut.



Caelan Tree is a poet/translator/veterinary technician living in Western Massachusetts with her wife and cats. She holds an MFA in Poetry & Poetry in Translation from Drew University, and is the author of the chapbook Quiet in the Body (Unthinkable Creatures Chapbook Press, 2013). Her work has appeared in The Healing Muse, Animal Literary Journal, Kalyani, and others.