KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 11: Spring 2019
Prose Poem: 286 words

The Soul of the Dead Quail
Has Lodged in My Chest

by Melanie Dunbar

I feel its frail heartbeat, the last few moments of its life, after I hit it with my car. I couldn’t swerve. There were more in line (at least one) and an old lady at the side of the road. I didn’t stop. It was a juvenile bird, a little bird, one of a line. Did she scoop it off the road with a shovel? Like I do when I find hit foxes? I can’t leave them to be flattened beyond recognition. They are foxes for God’s sake, and beautiful.


The quail’s heart wakes me up each morning at three. It is beating against my ribs like the wings of a monarch strong and ready to be released, then I realize for a quail the beat is weak. I can’t sleep with the gentle racket going on in there. I try to soothe it, anointing myself with a salve made from comfrey, nettles, and calendula; rub it in wherever I feel that beating close to the surface.


I put the quail to sleep with Xanax. I know it’s temporary. I’ll wait all day for it to wake up. It’s such a tiny thing, the quail’s heart, and it was only a tiny amount, but I am afraid of getting the quail addicted. I don’t need a quail junkie living in my chest. I am still waiting for my own heart to start beating again; it’s hiding under the sleeping quail. I have always felt the soul of dead animals when I drive over their carcasses, whether I’m the one who killed them or not. This is the first time one ever attached itself to me.


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