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Two Poems by Cathy Allman | Word Riot
Poetry

August 15, 2015      

Two Poems by Cathy Allman

MY HEART AS A SMALL DOG WITH A LUXATING PATELLA

My four-year-old fluffy bichon has to be leashed,
though I have a white picket fence
so she can run out the door and speed around
the mulched beds of roses, peony, and iris,
but there is a patch of black-eyed-Susans to protect.

She loves to eat flowers and licks
seeds skimmed from the pool,
except I don’t know what is poison
and what is safe. I don’t want to keep her
from the garden, but she always forgets

that everything in her space is not good for her.
And when she walks beyond the gate,
she loves the others clasped to leads.
She stops, waits for them to come close,
sniffs their private places.

Our bed is too high for her to get in and out
by herself—she needs lifted. She wakes,
moves from pillow to footboard,
nudges my husband. He pats her belly,
tells her to sleep, he has to catch the five a.m. train.

I worry about her getting infected
by a parasite. Not just Lyme, but
heartworm. I inspect her pink flesh.
She loves the woods and dead, musty leaves—
all the places where ticks hide.

She is in a cage now awaiting her X-ray.
I wait for someone to tell me what I can do.
Most likely nothing, but she will soon be fine,
squeaking her plastic toy for me to throw,
she’ll run, trigger again her genetic malformation.

IN THE TIME OF RETROGRADE

What you’ve always hidden surfaces
like the water from the well of what we both
must swallow—we are not going backward,
we are barreling toward that place past
our seed. We walk through our garden
not choked with dandelions and ivy. We’ve weeded.

But there is overgrowth, too much shade, little sun.
There is cold when the moon passes between Mercury
and us. Me with my need for silence and secrets
and you with your caves, your ghosts. We,
born of this dust and breath, have
beat along this path for years.
We watch the lines on each other’s face.
Our shared smiles, our children launched and landed,
while our hands hold each other only
to let go of what we thought we held, then to clutch
moonflowers for the next time this darkness grows.
You kiss me. I hug you. We dance like we danced
at that castle in the snow. In our best shoes
we find new steps together down

the aisle to our son’s vows. We wonder in our own
ways what for better or worse will he live—
who will the moon pull into the womb
where our unborn grandchildren wait,
to breathe, be held, watched.
Our vision knows the future only from worried
hindsight and our mistakes. It’s not retrograde
the way shadow moves over the places we paved,
or above gulfs we found no means to cross. In this light,
from far away, we seem to unwind backward
as we reel ahead toward what is written.

About the author:

Cathy Allman’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in California Quarterly (CQ), Caveat Lector, Crack the Spine, The Critical Pass Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Edison Literary Review, Elysian Fields, Front Range Review, Off the Coast, The Old Red Kimono, On Location, Pearl, Penmen Review, Peregrine, Pisgah Review, River Poets Journal, The Potomac Review, The Round, Sanskrit, Talking River, Terminus, and Town Creek Poetry.

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