I Carry The Dead

I carry the dead child in my pack
with dried fish my canteen
& a sealed tin of plums.
I carry his bloody shirt in my belt
his favorite toy
a pup he’d had since birth
over my shoulder
its eyes jiggle and snap
its stuffing leaks
it knocks against my ribs with every step.

I raised this child
from his mother’s arms
washed his puckered skin
combed dust from his hair
picked crusted tears from under his eyes
pearls of shit that clung in strands to his stubby legs.

I bear this boy with a hunter’s grace
careful to measure my stride
conserving breath
past men eating fire
past manicured lawns
past peddlers of teeth.

I take this stiff corpse
no more than one year old
to dig his grave beyond the trees
where his people grazed sheep
honed tools
under bows of flowers
where a stream may
at any moment
break through polished stone.