A Black Rabbit Dies For its Country

Born in the lab, I never saw the grass
or felt the direct touch of the wind or sun
and if a rabbit’s nature is to run
free on earth, I missed it; though the glass
never let shot or eager predators pass,

while I was warm against my mother’s side
something was waiting in the centrifuge
(the world’s a cage, although that cage is huge)
and separate I lived until I died –
watered and fed, I didn’t fret, inside,

and all the time was waiting for the paste
scooped with a spatula from the metal rim,
the concentrate bacillus at the brim,
and lived the life of feeling and of taste.
I didn’t know it. Knowing would be waste

in any case, and anthrax is the hard
stuff that knocks out the mice, the dogs, the men,
you haven’t any chance at all and when
they’ve finished with you, you’re down on a card.
How could I know, to be upon my guard

When they pushed my container into the line
With the infected airstream? Breath is life:
though something there more deadly than a knife
cut into me, I was still feeling fine
and never guessed the next death would be mine,

how many minutes later lungs would choke
as feet beat out the seconds like a drum,
hands held me on a table; this was the sum
with the predictable ending of a joke.
Fighting I died, and no god even spoke.

from The Collected Ewart 1933-1980: Poems (Hutchinson, 1980), © Gavin Ewart 1980, used by permission of Margo Ewart.

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