“Not Like Daniel” by Nels Hanson

When I was eight I saw a white-striped
Hampshire catch and eat a white rooster
wandered into the pen, then fight other

hogs for tail of a just-slaughtered pig
my grandfather tossed over the fence.
In green meadow the stilt-legged great

blue heron with dagger beak swallowed
whole a struggling sand-colored squirrel.
Black widows devour smaller husbands

after love and famished male bears slay
own cubs for food. You’ve read sharks
gobble barrels of nails, flotsam washed

from land or sinking ships. Large man
my dad met always ordered two dinners
at every restaurant. A school pal Mike

Ford was skinny as any boy Confederate
soldier and noons finished kids’ plates
so they could bolt the cafeteria to play.

I knew a human mouse, tiny first-grade
girl, no quarter for lunch – she crept each
12 o’clock into quiet classroom to gnaw

again at Christmas sugared star or Santa
dangling from the shining tree until our
teacher caught the thief. My brother bet

my cousin he couldn’t down 50 vanilla-
cream cookies at a single sitting before
refusing to pay a dollar. Ice-bound polar

explorers survived on leather soup, boots
and reins, sled dogs’ empty collars and
harness. We learned Aztecs in Mexico

hung parts of sacrificial victims on display
at markets, fresh palms and soles shoppers’
favorites though historians are fairly sure

the Donner Party stranded in California’s
Sierra snow starved without consuming
recently deceased. I understand animals

and men must kill to live if only hunting
fruits and leaves, vegetables plucked from
stems forever with cries flowers hear as

deep roots keep sifting rich necropolis of
soil for nutrients, the once alive returned
to needed minerals. If God promised He’d

save all Bengal tigers left on Earth if I’d
agree to die this second I might say, “Yes,
but softly, not like Daniel in a lion’s den.”

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