the difficult history of rabbits

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

 
Coneys, they were once called—
and kittens were their young.
Rodents they were believed to be,
though herbivorous, cute,

and gregarious burrowers,
they actually were lagomorphs.
Are they pets? To say a coney
is gregarious is to note

it roves in vaguely defined herds,
not that it shows up in top hat
and waistcoat twirling its pocket
watch like an overzealous

New Orleans antiques dealer.
To declare such a beast a bunny
is to denigrate, at the least;
to encage and kill and then to skin

its fur leaving a long-eared
husk of what it was is worse.
And yet, how irritating
to encounter a rabbit knowing

it will merely steal or make
mischief: “A butcher was opening
his market one morning and as
he did a rabbit popped his head

through the door: Got cabbage?”
No wonder French monks
once believed them to be fish
and therefore fair for Lenten fare,

as squirrelly as they are
and quick: unfair game, perhaps.
No wonder Darwin inquired
into their tendency to tumble

into holes full of magic and rhapsody
and horror: Are they genetically
disposed to such transport?
Is therefore a stew or casserole

a mythic hole into which some hapless
trippers have fallen as into
as dream—only to be eaten,
and, if so, will they awaken?

• • •

 

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