Poetry

‘Canine Litmus’ and other poems

By: Christine Naprava

Canine Litmus

I’ve owned dogs that have lasted longer than you and I.
Dogs with nervous guts and singing skin,
dogs with weight and dogs with ribs visible,
dogs with teeth bared and dogs with teeth drowning in decay.
Dogs born with death already attached
and dogs whose expiration exceeded that of the kid
I babysat when I was a kid.
Dogs that have met the baby,
the baby’s baby.
Dogs that have seen death in the living room
and, a year later, death in the bedroom.
Dogs that have swum and dogs that have sunk.
Dogs that have mothered and dogs that have fathered.
Dogs that have gone silently, in the night,
and dogs that have gone cold under the doctor’s care.
Dogs that have met you with telling opposition
and dogs that have never had to cower beneath your touch.

###

Matryoshka

The glass tasted
good

at first,
like all

first things
do,

sweet,
smooth as

riverbed stone,
and then

the glass
began to taste

like
forgetting how

to breathe.
Forgetting how to

breathe
in Mother’s car

before school,
a braver-faced

me
than the me

who wept
and refused

to believe
that the body knew

what to do
when

sleep conquered
the wired

mind.
Forgetting how to

breathe
tasted like

forgetting how to eat.
Subsisting on fruit

and even-numbered
repetitions,

a lean eighty-five
by freshman year,

a doted-on
sort of affliction

that needed only
an addict’s

affection.
I can taste the glass

now,
dream glass

in flying shards,
and I can taste the

child’s lungs,
filled at recess

and
gasping for air

by bedtime,
and I can taste the

thick-skinned
apples

washed down
with water

cold enough to
stun the lungs.

The glass
has become

an ex’s chirping birds,
the origin of his

melatonin addiction,
and the breathing

has become
the inability

to form a
thought

when a blank
stare will not

suffice,
and the

forgetting how
to eat−

I know nothing of it.
Now I eat too well.

###

Every Woman Is a Model Now

A too-generous angle
tainted with sacrilege−
Godspell,
in waves of
orange and black,
in both our
peripheries,
a showy exhibition
of faith,
an embarrassment,
except this theater major
only has eyes for
what’s pink and peach
and all mine.
A form of God
over my shoulder
and on my left,
out of the
camera’s gaze,
Saint Francis,
son of man,
born of wood,
with carved eyes narrowed
and bird in hand,
the patron saint of all animals
with no time for this animal.

This animal
retreats to
bathrooms
on command,
camera in hand,
but really the camera
is all of our phones
held unsurely
in shaking,
desperate hands.
Dimmed lights,
a three-second timer,
a forgiving filter
dated on left side.
16 oz. of cream
for a stand,
phone propped,
bare or nearly bare−
when nearly bare,
he’s given choice.
He chooses all:
the pink, the purple,
the whites,
the grays.

Objects in mirror
may appear larger
than they really are:
What I give him
or what he sees
while scrolling,
he’s deceived
like the rest of us.
Approved of
and sent,
not approved of
and a change of angles
is in order.
Holding breath
while sucking in,
tense muscles
as impossible positions
are held in place.
A sink for a seat,
an awkward
hand thrown
awkwardly
out of frame.

This animal dresses
hurriedly
and retreats
from bathrooms
until the next time,
admiring,
as with all creations,
what’s no longer hers:
a few flecks of purple
in a sea of red.
Every woman,
I realize,
is a model now−
muses esteemed
in private galleries
and muses gawked at
by the masses,
we are all
curated delicacies
trapped
within frigid,
thirsty
glances.

Categories: Poetry

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