WHY THE CITY IS A DOG
If it’s a dog, I can matter to it.
If it’s a dog, I can’t know it.
My ideas of it are not its ideas. A dog sleeps
by itself outside, or in a separate room,
or her up-close nostrils fog my eyelids.
If— so she can come along, a cell within her vein,
and I can be vast, can be her handler.
That the city is a dog (I hope she isn’t someone else’s).
She has her eye on various mistresses,
when her eye opens,
I was on you, I was a flea on you, was this the way it was?
Does it end in wisdom, your silent brown head?
When your life slipped, a towel on the linoleum--
the pink liquid loaded into your paws’ veins through a tube.
It had a transit, I saw it go, it approached you--
I don’t want to be that poison, please—I want to be the blood of you.
Sometimes, city, your veins seemed windy.
The sun hurt the window (a cough).
As though we’d been washed to the edge of your marsh
where that flat bridge shoots and sucks, a spur
far off—from wherever we were.
There are entrances we can’t see to us.
From myself, I was a little remote,
fat, up-pointed needle,
heart’s gears un-knotting high up from concrete.
My body (bubbles) not hopeful but helpless--
was I offering myself (carbonated) to chaos?
If the brink came I wanted a rooftop seat.
Twice a day I thought about cutting my hair with a moving train.
I avoided the ground zero,
but was I a kind of zero?
Was I the vacuum that needles and blocks abhorred?
Maybe in my gut there was a zero.
Maybe I loaded it, pink,
into there willfully,
A story was something, and mine seemed pretty meager.
Like a sea monkey disappearing in the palm.
When owned, dogs walk and are walked, walk and are walked in circuits,
circuiting and feeding their own circuitry.
I wished you would look at me
and I always felt you looking.
Please give me your blessing, thing I live by ignoring,
reflex waiting in a cell
windowless, red but dark in there, let it be red and yours in my imagining--
Let you be alive, let you tremble, let you be unstable,
let you into the fabric warehouse, let you up on the roof of that skyscraper--
borne up by wind, a door slam possible.
Remembering her, I think: I didn’t do as well as I might have.
But she’s always asleep, this dog.
She sleeps in some manmade kennel.
I tap on a piano key, her eyes are seams in her shiny fur,
I lean on her long structures shivering in my coat on 34th street like a flea.
If it’s a dog, she has her own attention,
a privacy within a private residence
a hide inhabited by shut houses.
Liz Countryman is Writer in Residence at the University of South Carolina. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Handsome, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Forklift, Ohio, and Court Green.