The five keets
hatched from eggs
rescued from the nest
where Sadie the dog
had killed the Guinea hen,
just hours before they were ready
to break from their shells—
a tragedy that set papa Guinea
into grief-stricken cries
as he paced the scene of the crime
for two days—
were growing
in the safety of their pen
along the outside of the barn:
trotting around the pen
in their tight little gang,
eating lots,
already adolescents,
roosting up high
during the evening.
We had grown especially
fond of them. They were
survivors,
a pretty little clutch
that would make their parents
proud, we thought.

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When Ann went to the barn yesterday afternoon
to fill water containers,
gather eggs
and see that chickens, guineas, alpacas, goats, rabbits
were fed,
she opened the keet pen
and discovered a five-foot snake!
Four keets were huddled; the fifth,
a bulge inside the snake.
We thought the keets had grown big enough
that we didn’t have to worry about them
being eaten by a snake. But this was
a large snake.
I say was…
Ann nailed more boards
around the bottom of the pen
to try to keep any
other
snake out.

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We know
it’s impossible to protect all lives,
try as we might.
We had been alarmed earlier,
to spot a very large
coyote,
in mid-day,
crossing the country road
north of the farmhouse,
where chickens and guineas free range.
We know it’s the way
of nature, the life and death cycle.
If we bring them into our care,
we go all out to do what we can
to help protect our little farm community.
And so,
we understand Papa Guinea’s
grief
when someone dies.