You’re the first dog I ever
loved deeply, that I ever
clung to. Long thick fur
the color of coffee with cream,
tail curled and fanning out
behind you– your plumage–
dark chocolate mask, faded
muzzle. I don’t remember who
named you. My last memory
of you alive: I raked the half-acre
October leaves into a mound,
jumped in. You followed, pulled
my hair, my feet, my pants, stood
with one paw on each shoulder,
pinning me. You won before curling
under one arm, almost the size of my
eleven year old body. You slept.
I read my book. My last memory of you:
Halloween. You’d been gone three days,
but that wasn’t unusual. On the bus to
school, we crossed the highway. The
breeze caught your tail, lying in the
middle of the north bound lane, made
you look alive, wagging. I screamed,
face pressed against bus glass. Every
dog since, I’ve wanted to be you.


My heart still ached from losing Gus,
from losing August, but my need for
a dog, a companion, was too great.
Your ears were plastered back, even
through the glass. Not a Poodle.
Not a Havanese. Brown eyes cast
down. Tail tucked. I held your paw
to guess how large you’d grow. It didn’t
matter. I took you home that hour. You
sat perfectly still in the car, refused
to walk up the open air stairs to
my apartment. I carried you. I laid
on my brown leather couch, and you
laid on my belly, nose to nose,
stretched the length of my body.
I called out of work. Your floppy ears
relaxed, no longer held back. Your
brown and black tail curled next to you,
no longer tucked. Brown eyes explored
the room from the perch on my chest.
Our breath synced. We slept unmoving. Home.

Rainy day trombone

When you were alone,
you played the trombone
and made your cat Yaten groan.
We all understood
that you weren’t very good,
though if you could tell, it is not known.

You packed it away,
your loneliness at bay
and carried on without dismay.
But your thoughts never left it,
we’ve grown to accept it
that you pull it out on rainy days.


I want to be an inchworm, to
crinkle my whole body together
just to move, to accordion myself
just to move. Inch inch.

I want to be that green thread
thinner than a grain of rice
and not much longer. I want the
balance to scrunch just to move,
to arch just to move. Inch inch.

I want to eat my body weight
in leafy cuticle, to have a
never-ending supply of food, if
only I can get to it, if only I
can fold myself in two just to move,
to touch my ends together just to
move. Inch inch.

I want the rain to wash me away
drop by drop, to carry me away
from all I know so I have to
double over just to move, to loop
my whole body just to move. Inch inch.


My eyes burn before
my feet do, wrists
bound behind me to
a pole. What have I
done wrong? My nose
runs, I shift my
right foot away from
the smoldering stack.
My back aches. Someone
save me. Save me. Kill
me now. A flame pulls
itself out of the mound.
Another. I feel fevered.
I shift my weight again,
but my lungs ache. I pull
at the rope on my wrists.
Raw. Keep pulling. The fire
growls toward the sky, hissing
with flame teeth, gnashing like
a rabid dog. My heart is a rabbit.
Cornered. What have I done wrong? I
squeeze the pole against my spine, pull
down with my arms, wiggle and stretch upward,
away. I move half as far as a first year cone,
fall down into the blaze. It needs me. It needs
me. My toenails blacken. I scream until my throat
is as raw as my wrists. I smell cooked meat. It’s me.
I know. My calf ruptures. I hear it before I feel it. What
have I done wrong? I don’t forgive you. You cannot be absolved.
Carry me with you. Watch my lashes burn. Save me. Save me. Save me.

Ball Lightning

When my voice is old,
I’d like to sing into a gorge,
into the Marianas Trench.
I want my brow to grow heavy,
bearing peaches, to feel
the weight of decades on
my hips, to own a splintered
fractal of human history.
When my hair is white and
silver, I’ll unleash the stars
of my braid, arthritic
opening to God. My hunched
spine will crack open, wrinkled
skin peeling away, bone
popping and curling until
the husk of
Who I Thought I Was
falls away, blows away, to
reveal the ball of light inside.

Sleepy baby Ana

Cage… Nicolage Nicolage. Cropped
hair bobs as you turn your head
on its side, flared nostrils, widened
then tightly shut blue eyes, jazz hands.
Your movements remain sharp as ever,
disjointed as the mouse that knocked
your birthday hat from your
three year old head. You’ll never
have curls again– your first haircut
robbed you, stole your curls despite
my prayers that you would
always remain that way.

Francis Marion State Park

My head is not the perfect fish body.
You’re more than a tamarack, more
than heat and hair and hostility
toward your body. I’m more than
a trip North, more than the finality
of divorce, more than the name
I wanted back so badly. Your snout
shrank. Now you only have a nose.
But I can still feel your coil–
copper and gold.

Upon the birth of my child, my fear

Your face was blue when we first
met, the first time I saw you
outside of pictures, outside of me.
Your whole small body shook
with holy cries, hallowed shrieks.
They subsided when your tiny cheek
pressed over my heart, when we breathed
together. You turned pink later
that night, hours passing since you
were forced from my body, laughter
pushing you to join me in this world.
Your movements staccato– too small
to be real, I dreamed you were
an animatronic infant, a sweet
deception. Black hair fell past
your ears, plastered to your neck
by amniotic fluid. But I’ll never
forget that blue, umbilical cord
wrapped around your neck, the first
thing you ever wore after me.

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