Dora Malech

March 18, 2019 Malech Dora


Sudden underfoot, this one cries back
echo of my outsized cartoon shriek.
In snow, I catch its passing by the tail’s
naked drag, line drawn through the fallen
flakes between footprints, making not map
but mockery of any designs on following.
In summer, certain nights fall like ancient
rites as the rats appear en masse, frenzied
to orgy or worship. My planted patch
bared down to a brown square by morning,
I have heard mint and I have heard:
smoke bombs and a shovel and a shop vac
in reverse, steel wool and ground glass
mixed into concrete, snap traps, glue traps,
poison pellets, ammonia soaked rags,
cat piss, a .22, anti-freeze, and something
called a Zapper, which takes 4 D batteries.
In the stark fluorescent light of labs,
they’re how we’ve come to know
what’s actually inside of us,
our pathways and our processes,
so why not in the this-is-not-a-test,
the dim and dirty actual of the world
as well? Loathing them’s the only issue
upon which our city’s residents can all
agree. The rat—that gnawer in the dark
whose open-rooted incisors grow endlessly
beveled, bedeviled, reviled, for whom satiety
is never-finished work, whose teeth without
relief would grow into a perfect spiral,
from whom we recoil without acknowledging
our own geometries of need and claim anathema
slips through our chain-link symmetries—cases
our foundations, traces where our walls meet
with the rub of its body’s grease and each night
reveals itself in us as too close to the furthest
thing from what think we want our want to be.

Dora Malech is the author of three books of poetry: Shore Ordered Ocean, published by The Waywiser Press in 2009; Say So, published by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center in 2011; and, most recently, Stet, selected by Susan Stewart for the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets and published by Princeton University Press in 2018. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New YorkerPoetryThe Best American PoetryPoetry LondonTin HouseLana TurnerThe New England Review, and The Kenyon Review. She is the recipient of awards that include an Amy Clampitt Residency Award from the Amy Clampitt Foundation, a Writer’s Fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where she is an assistant professor in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.