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The Rat Of Faith

 A blue jay poses on a stake 
meant to support an apple tree 
newly planted.
A strong wind on this clear cold morning barely ruffles his tail feathers.
When he turns his attention toward me, I face his eyes without blinking.
A week ago my wife called me to come see this same bird chase a rat into the thick leaves of an orange tree.
We came as close as we could and watched the rat dig his way into an orange, claws working meticulously.
Then he feasted, face deep into the meal, and afterwards washed himself in juice, paws scrubbing soberly.
Surprised by the whiteness of the belly, how open it was and vulnerable, I suggested I fetch my .
22.
She said, "Do you want to kill him?" I didn't.
There are oranges enough for him, the jays, and us, across the fence in the yard next door oranges rotting on the ground.
There is power in the name rat, a horror that may be private.
When I was a boy and heir to tales of savagery, of sleeping men and kids eaten half away before they could wake, I came to know that horror.
I was afraid that left alive the animal would invade my sleep, grown immense now and powerful with the need to eat flesh.
I was wrong.
Night after night I wake from dreams of a city like no other, the bright city of beauty I thought I'd lost when I lost my faith that one day we would come into our lives.
The wind gusts and calms shaking this miniature budding apple tree that in three months has taken to the hard clay of our front yard.
In one hop the jay turns his back on me, dips as though about to drink the air itself, and flies.

Poem by Philip Levine
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