Grace, Revisited

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They groom one another in the late hour
of an afternoon, deft tongues addressing

foreheads, noses, cheeks, adjusting for fur
thickness and length, with its grain or against,

their ablutions leisured, deliberate,
miniature quills extended to release

the treasured oils that comb and lubricate,
this covenant to tender and appease

impromptu work. Absorbed in the cadence
of their task, untroubled when I appear

unexpectedly, their acknowledgement
is shifting weight, half-flicker of an ear,

and easeful eyes. They weave a rhythmic lure
of gentle to-and-fro as though beguiled

by ritual and slow silence, secure
in their anointing, the urge to survive

deferred. I have no part in this respite
from the vigils of sleep or kill, predator

and prey, bone-bearing carcasses and birth;
nor with these creatures who intuit prayer.