In those moments I fumbled in the dark
you were the dog from the Atsugewi tale
bringing back fire cupped in coal-black ears,
lop-tips parrying buffets of rain
while you suffered pain sparks to burrow overnight,
pawing the coals out for me to cook with
once morning stole in. Then you disappear
from the telling, like a fire left to burn down:
the people praise the food and go out hunting.
How still you stood, the bright weave behind your eyes
letting no light escape.
Midwinter saw a tug-of-war, my son
pulling me into the womb he wouldn’t leave.
When we first came home I had expected you
to wonder at the miracle—me, baby;
but after one sniff you gave him a wide berth
and lay Sphinx-pawed, back to the open doorway.
Conscientious objector? Ceding your place?
Standing guard? I suspect you didn’t know
yourself what instinct had kicked in, and with it
lassitude, ennui you’d always known
just what to do. Not me.
Rebecca Starks is the author of the poetry collections Time Is Always Now, a finalist for the 2019 Able Muse Book Award, and Fetch, Muse (forthcoming from Able Muse Press), and is the recipient of Rattle’s 2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in Valparaiso Review, Crab Orchard Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She lives in Richmond, Vermont.