R is for river and RODENTIA, the rodent formerly known as Cony is making her way to the village, having breakfasted satisfactorily on a tawny sandwich of old bread, lettuce, tomato, and a slice of Swiss cheese.
Skin is what the villagers esteem, so she covers it under long-sleeved gabardine and a broad-brimmed hat. Silver gray, the skin. Beauty hides; neutrality roams.
Though the day is warm, the Rabbit chatters her round cheeks, smelling the mown grass and overriding her desire to pause and eat and pause and eat and pause and eat. She keeps her hat strapped, her gaze firm, striding forward like the hare, whom she likes but doesn’t trust. She is afraid of running into the Flemish Giant, largest of all the breeds. She finds the Giant repulsive, a monstrosity of race, though she understands it is not his fault being huge anymore than it is hers for possessing coveted skin.
“It’s just teleology,” she thinks. “The endpoint of domestication.” She thinks about domesticity and mastication, as she chews on thought after thought. Domesticity, a little lawn, white rooms with brown floors cleaned with rags and palm oil, a basket of carrots, and a little gray fence. The day is golden, perfect as a walnut.
She knows that they are the last of their kind, all of them. Herself, a descendant of Dutch colonists, the punctilious hare, the Flemish abomination with his thighs the size of her head. They are the last of their lines in spite of incessant breeding. The villagers’ desire for variety—for skin, shape, and size—is insatiable, but the river has shifted, and all that breeding will bear no seed.
The Wolf is in a trap set by the Woodcutter who whittles a sharp stick to plunge in the Wolf’s eye. Let’s assume this takes place in the savage North, not so savage now in the pleasant blanch of summer. Ferocity resides in the man’s shoulder, congested with repetitive work, the motions of a dedicated craftsman. Like a young worm burning through its mother, the Woodcutter would like to eat the Wolf. He would like to roast it after poking out its eyes. The Woodcutter is a shy man, self-conscious about his intentions. He does not want to be seen by the beast when he slits its belly from throat to hole.
The Wolf was entrapped by its cravings—not for the Woodcutter with whom she has no quarrel or interest but for the Woodcutter’s beasts: his chickens, his goats, his sheep, the animals of restive living. But the Wolf is not picky. If the Woodcutter had kept monkeys, cockatiels, or Schnauzers, the Wolf would have pursued them too. As it is, the Wolf can no longer pursue anything but her own hunger, which will not be sated, which cannot be whittled away. She did not expect to have such a disgusting death, the Woodcutter’s scent her last pure experience.
Anna Maria Hong is the author of the novella H & G (Sidebrow Books), winner of the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Clarissa Dalloway Prize, and Age of Glass, winner of Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s First Book Poetry Competition and the Poetry Society of America’s 2019 Norma Farber First Book Award. Her second poetry collection, Fablesque, won Tupelo Press’s Berkshire Prize and is forthcoming in June 2020. A former Bunting Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, she has published work in The Nation, The Iowa Review, Ecotone, Poetry, jubilat, Fence, Jet Fuel Review, Jacket2, Verse Daily, Poetry Daily, The Best American Poetry, and many other publications.