"And we thicken, pungent as stew, ..."


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Ms. Carlisle

Wendy Carlisle

Reading Berryman to the Dog

I believe dogs have souls, although
I know they are bloodthirsty as generals.
The new dog treasures dried pig ears,
hoards them like a recruit. At night
I can hear him in the garage
shattering them, chewing.

The dog flew in on American Airlines.
I waited on the tarmac while
a front-end loader lifted his crate
down to me, him standing up in it.
He and the crate together
weighed 160 pounds.

When I finally had to touch him,
the day went slick in my hand.
I grubbed in my pocket for
a Ken'l Bone, pushed
my fingers through the bars
and crooned a safe-dog song.

Twenty years ago I loved a man
who never spoke. In the war, he
had friends and enemies he couldn't
tell apart. In my bed, he dreamed
of napalm and, glossy with sweat,
screamed in his sleep.

The new dog is taking his time
getting used to us. He often stares
at the cats a long time without
moving, measuring their intent.
In the manual, it says his breed is
fond of small animals. They will,
however, kill rabbits.

The soldier called unexpectedly last week.
I listened to his voice make a fist
sound. My palm grew wet
on the receiver. I had nothing to say
but I didn't hang up. Now
he calls often. Sometimes I answer.

At night, when the new dog whimpers,
I'm sorry for him. I want him to feel
at home, secure. When I sit down to read,
I let him rest his butt on my foot.
He folds his paws
one over the other like little hands.

Then I read aloud to him, Berryman:
the Opus Dei, the prayers.

What was it to Snow White?

the shape of the mirror
a walk in the woods
those little men coming

home, rendered in miniature
their small stories
like the nip of conscience.

the trade-off for breakfast and duds
gleam fourteen boots, polish seven
sideboards, listen for whistles

seven twelves, housekeeping
awash in dustrags, she
ended up ravenous.

for a Rome beauty, then
it was nothing
to open the door.

glass-encased before and after
ever after what mattered?
her own reflection, the cost of the fruit.

In Cook's Company
   "When we eat, let panic rule."
      Gary Soto

And when we eat sambaar,its swollen daland
silk alooare lit by peppers, turmeric-gilt, our tongues
are roused by coriander, search sharp cumin
out. Careless, I brandish my spoon
above the pristine rice. Wild with your fork,
you coax the tamarind thickness to escape, leak
onto napkin, cheeks and chin. And we thicken,
pungent as stew, unwind the heat in forehead, groin.
So will we then embrace the ease of the animal,
fed, when the enterprise of food is done?

What other purpose is there for green
curry, its curled soft leaves, for parathaand nan,
than to bring, after the feast, a last portion
stirred in us, deep and sweet as kheer.