Born into One Body
Isn’t it odd how we’re born
in one country
and not another,
could have been any other
color instead of what
we are? We might speak
Parsi and send our dead
to the place of birds.
Strange that we work
at desks in cool rooms
not making clothes
in factories, sweltering,
being slapped or called
Donkey or Dog.
What if we suddenly changed
into another, disappeared
into a labyrinthine souk,
wearing shorts and
a baseball cap, emerging
as a man in a djellaba
or a woman with red
embroidery of henna
on her hands?
We’d sit in the shade
of a palm tree, feed dates
to a child never seen before
but surely she is ours.
Another Day of Being White [Dog Incident Report]
My goldendoodle puppy, apricot-colored,
looks like a dust mop on legs.
Rosie adores everyone, wants to lick hands,
is friendly indiscriminately with all humans
in her orbit, lucky little star, recipient
of sunny attention from many strangers
until today when I errored (as the training book
calls it), let out the leash five feet
and unheeded her dash through the doorway
of a bus shelter where a man sat
slumped smoking a cigarette.
When she came at him, he leaped to his feet,
onto the bench the way fire jumps,
his dark eyes on her, his face a rictus of terror.
Was he yanked back to facing a mouthful
of guard dogs' teeth? Or to a traffic stop
with K-9 cops who call Black men dog biscuits?
Maybe he's been warned of feral dogs and rabies.
Need I tell you I'm a white woman
in a mostly white neighborhood,
and like the puppy, I'm used to being liked.
He is a Black man uninterested in the apology
I try to make from a distance. Am I wrong
to make this encounter about race?
Can he just be a guy with a primal fear of dogs?
Today the air smells of heated grain.
She and her daughter stand by the barn. Already
autumn is a place between anticipation and fear.
The dry fields are full of grasshoppers.
They display confidence in daylight.
Propelled by their hind legs, they take off
with a whirr of wings through the high grasses.
In the fable, a grasshopper's the improvident one,
nothing to eat come winter, which seems just.
Where swarms darken the skies, everything is
devoured––harvest, broom straw, doll's hair.
Nearby, corn plants spout tassels,
soybeans dangle green pods.
A grasshopper captured in a hand
will spit tobacco brown. While she holds it,
time spools out on the threshold
of ingathering, of having or losing yield
before it's secured. It is so in the Great Plains
as it is in Kenya and Ethiopia, as it has been across time,
the bending of human livelihood to the unpredictable.
She releases the grasshopper. It jumps
onto her daughter's head, attaching
like a barrette to a wave of hair.
All around is green and brown and gold.
––After Eavan Boland's Moth
Saint Francis Pet Cemetery
Under our dog's tongue
the stone of a tumor.
We always fed her dry food
but now offer a death row diet,
whatever the pooch wants:
meat scraps from our plates,
casserole with rice.
We walk slowly, let her go
unleashed, stopping in a pet cemetery.
A granite statue of Saint Francis
stands watch over the tombstones.
He who tamed the wolf
believed in the souls of animals.
He raises his hand to bless them all.
We'll be back soon to plant ashes
among the grave markers remembering
Teensy, a terrier, Busy Bob, a hamster,
and on a cross made of Popsicle sticks:
Spaz the guppy, swimming forever.
Green tea in the night before first light.
It's early, even for me.
How to hold the day
in my arms like a day-old baby
struggling to survive,
her curled fingers tiny as wren's feet.
I dreamed my dog
smelled cancer in my throat.
I dreamed my son
was back in his room,
and not in a jail cell alone,
his phone card spent.
I know how one hand holds the other
orbiting each knuckle with a thumb.
I'll do what I need to do.
I'll fall softly as light rain on myself.