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)
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.