Julie Bruck

My Shame & Sanctuary
February 22, 2019 Bruck Julie

MY SHAME

 

bares its midriff, the white of one eye,

drops its head at the zap of conscience

we’re told animals do not feel—but

oh yes they do—and how.

 

Do not be misled by its overall affability,

expressed at times by compulsive embracing,

nor how it shapes itself to your back’s curve

when you most need soothing to sleep.

 

Stubborn as a root, my shame is, wily,

pointless to confront, since it always

weeps when cornered, sucking up

your sympathy just to make it stop.

 

My shame reads your most intimate letters,

would sell your birthright downriver, spends

your collectible coins, and is probably

cutting your favorite clothes into small squares

 

as we speak, blaming you for everything

while it ruins your best pair of scissors.

My shame is shameless: just ask after

those scissors and watch the sobbing start.

 

(after Campbell McGrath)

 

SANCTUARY

 

At first that howl suggests an overbearing parent

on the sidelines of a girls’ soccer game, but no—

it’s coming from the parklet across the street:

somebody homeless or off their meds, shrieking

from a bush, in waves. Weekenders look alarmed.

A few pause, then shrug and move on. Others hurry

to cross against the light. Here, in the sanctuary city,

a person has the right to be miserable. Need to drown

out voices in your head? You too can be a howler. No

law against it. So unless he sets fire to a native

tree—another matter entirely, subject to the purview

of a different city department—it’s ethical to simply keep

walking away from this man who hides in plain view,

like a two-year-old who secretly wants to be found.

Julie Bruck received Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for her third book, Monkey Ranch. Her new collection, How To Avoid Huge Ships, was published in 2018. She lives in San Francisco.