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,

playing solitaire

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.