Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine poet laureate.

Sometimes the lessons children must learn are not only troublesome for them, but for the parents who must witness their learning. Today’s poem is by Gary Rainford of Swans Island.

Miss Shrew

By Gary Rainford

It’s a chill morning in May.

I follow Meri, whirling and speechless, to a nook

underneath the staircase.

Trapped inside a jar

a velvety shrew, smaller than my big toe,

is dying, but holding to life

like petals of roses to a cut stem.

When I palm the jar, tiny shrew feet struggle,

then fall. And when she lifts her head,

her red eyes close.

Meri feels so terrible we let Miss Shrew go loose

way out back by the honeysuckle vines

in the mice and shrew hotel

of tall grasses.

“I want Miss Shrew to live, see another sunrise,”

Meri points tearfully at the sky.

“Go shrew, go shrew, go,” I say, down on my knees

and elbows, praying for a twitch

of hope, but she hardly moves.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2014 Gary Rainford. Reprinted from “Salty Liquor,” North Country Press, 2014, by permission of Gary Rainford. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc at [email protected] or 228-8263. “Take Heart: Poems from Maine,” an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.