by Christine Boyka Kluge

I carry it room to room in a shoebox. Sometimes I lift the lid and breathe patterns into its fur. I inhale its perfume of musk and vinegar, wanting to understand it. I admit, I shake the box just to feel it roll side to side, angry at its silence. I can't resist drumming my nails against the cardboard, listening. It grows smaller and heavier. My arms ache from holding it.

I go to bed with the shoebox balanced on my chest, my hands clasped over the lid. My slowing heartbeat taps against its own, only cardboard between us. When sleep loosens my grip, it escapes. I'm startled awake by something cold crawling through my fingers. It gnaws through my skin, into my marrow, burrows deep into the dark place beneath my ribs. There is only one way I can lure it back into its box each morning. I place another scrap of my heart in its thimble-sized bowl.