by David Yezzi

David Yezzi

Sit. You're making too much noise.
Bad boy.
Think about it: what's it going to look like,
you in my room, in just your underwear,
on an all-girls' floor in the freshman dorm?
I think you'd want to think about that fact.
I'll take that gag off, if you can sit still.
Okay, it's up to you. You know those cuffs
would hurt a lot less if you could just relax.
Remember, you're the one who put them on.
You put them on. And then you just passed out,
like you were dead. I tried waking you, even
pried your lids up but your eyes were white,
which scared me 'cause I thought you might be dead.
I've never seen a person so . . . zoned out.
Sometimes, I try to imagine that I'm dead,
as if I weren't here, as if I was
invisible and I could walk around
with everything still going on without me.
What difference would it make if I were gone?
Like zero difference, you know what I mean?
It's okay with me. It's true. But nice of you
to try to disagree.
You're a sweetie.

I'm always blown away by people's kindness;
no, really, it just always knocks me out,
when someone drops the edginess we use
to keep away invaders, and, let's face it,
they're everywhere you go — the crosstown bus,
the grocery store, joggers in Central Park,
especially them, so smug, so master-race.
That's why I can't believe we ever met.
Not you and me. I mean this guy I loved.
I didn't really plan it, didn't ask for it,
you know, and that's how come I knew I loved him.
That's how it comes to you, not when you're looking,
but when your head is turned the other way.
I loved him. And I also loved his dog.
My dog loved his dog. That's the way we met,
at the dog run.

Actually, there were two near me:
a bigger run — much fancier but farther —
and, underneath the bridge, the scrappy one.
I started at the nicer one, you know,
walked down the extra blocks, because I thought,
since there were more dogs there, the better chance
of finding one that Lulu'd want to play with.
The nicer one had lots of dogs and space,
with little islands made of piled-up rocks.
But it was crap. The dogs there all were dead.
I mean they just seemed kind of dazed, like robots,
as if the life had just drained out of them —
like zombie dogs, Night of the Living Dogs —
or maybe they were all on Ritalin,
you know, the way they give that now to kids?
Meanwhile, the people there — the regulars —
they didn't notice. All they did was gossip,
blah-blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah,
talking about the way the neighborhood
had gone to hell and how they'd grown up there,
about their fancy breeders. Yak-yak-yak.
The dogs were sweet. Mostly they just looked stunned.
No one played with them or threw a ball.
People got annoyed when dogs would play,
but why else are they there — to rub and chase
and roll and hump each other in the dirt?
Lulu they just hated; she loved to run.
She'd tried to get the other dogs to chase her
by nipping at them; no, it wasn't biting.
Nipping. You'd put your finger in her mouth,
and she'd just hold it there between her teeth,
possess it, so you couldn't take it back,
but never even hurting you, never, you see?
(Just grunt to let me know that you can hear me.)
But to them she was a wolf: blood-thirsty, feral,
and everyone would whisper when she came.

Then Lulu got a pigeon.
It wasn't her fault. I was standing right outside
the metal gate, where everyone could see us.
Lulu was a huntress; she hunted everything,
mice and squirrels, and earthworms she'd dig up.
But what she wanted most of all were pigeons.
Like those cartoons: the ones in which the dog's
pupils turn to drumsticks. She would pounce
at them, completely driven, every muscle
in her body, every hair on fire to catch
that bird, and not just catch it, eat it, too.
I've never seen her looking happier
than in that moment, when her choke collar
zipped tight like a big fish taking a hook,
and her leaping at it, airborne, twisting around
to catch it in her teeth.
The people freaked.
I started screaming, pulling on the leash,
but she had it in her mouth, between her paws.
When I reached in to free the thing, she growled,
and I came up with bloody hands and wrists.
It wasn't mine. Though I wondered if it was,
if she'd bitten me. But she would never do that.
Not even in the ecstasy of it.
That's another way that dogs are different.
They're hugely civilized, more so than we are.
So, that was it for the fancy uptown run.
We wound up at the dingy run in winter,
where the wind rips off the river, mostly empty,
where Lulu met Reynaldo, a scruffy schnauzer.
They ran until their tongues flapped down their chins.
Then Rey-Rey's owner started making small talk —
just casual, like stories from the paper,
training tricks, dog stories — like you do.

I waited on the days he didn't come.
It felt first like a little irritation,
so that I didn't notice it. But then
I actually ached for him when he was gone.
I told myself that Lulu missed Reynaldo,
but then one morning in the freezing rain
I saw him as we were coming along the river
towards the run, and Lulu started pulling
on her choke chain — she nearly pulled my arm off.
For two whole blocks she strained, just acting nuts.
She pulled the leash free of my hand and ran.
And as I stood there in the sleet I knew
that I had missed him so incredibly
I almost started crying. And the dogs,
leapt up to catch each other in their paws,
like ballroom dancers circling the floor,
upright, on hind legs, balanced arm in arm.
I felt like that was us, but not imagined it,
actually felt — as we stood there silently,
unmoving, watching, side-by-side —
that we were pressing up against each other,
swaying into the matted whorls of fur,
my teeth clamped on his skin, saliva flying.
I think I came. My legs let go a little.

I'm going to take these off, but understand
that once you leave this room you won't say anything.
Unless you want your father and the cops
to see these pictures on the internet:
you look asleep, it's true, but how to explain it?
Sometimes I wonder if it isn't possible
that loves we have in our minds are the real ones,
the ones that matter to us most of all,
the ones that we take with us to the grave.
I guess I'm sorry that it won't be you
I'm supposed to love.
Now let me free your mouth.

Last updated January 14, 2019