Xixtaberri

To protect a vegetable garden

from rabbits

you must lay the chicken wire

twenty-five centimeters

into the soil.

They can’t dig that deep.

Eighteen meters of wire fencing,

four sides of four and a half,

iron stakes cornering the square,

entrusted with strawberries, tomatoes,

artichoke hearts.

The farm was near Biarritz.

Our hunter green tablecloth unfurled

labyrinthine corridors of blueberry bushes

winding down into the River Nive

sailing blueberry flotsam

through piment d’Espelette villages

into the Atlantic.

The Carcelles had owned Xixtaberri

for seven years.

This summer

I was their only guest.

I worked for room and board.

In July, at dinner,

they told me how

in March, at night,

they had lost their child. How

in the morning, his crib was just

empty, its narrow wooden slats

painting strips of sunlight

on the hardwood floor.

A rabbit

can slip through an opening

of five centimeters,

said Noël, his legs dangling

in the corn husks below the porch,

drinking one glass of sambuca Ramazzotti

on ice, like every other night.

He stared into its milky white

snow globe murk before each sip.

He told me he once trapped rabbits

and snapped their necks

but that he didn’t use live traps

anymore. I found one in the bushes,

an ancient and empty cage,

and he slipped his fingers

into his trap’s square lattice,

two centimeters by two centimeters,

white knuckles clinging

to rusted memory.

If there was one,

there must have been others,

entangled and forgotten in blueberry folds –

and he cried to imagine it – clawing paws,

pawing hands, unable to know

what is happening