Not the Wolf but the Dog

By: Jacqueline Berger

Featured art: Two Human Beings. The Lovely Ones by Edvard Munch

Not the zebra but the horse;
not buffalo but cows,
maybe camels,
who traded the wild for the stable,
a stall lined in straw,
the house with wee gables and eaves,
their name over the door—
Biscuit, Coco. Snowball, Ranger.
Traded the hunt for the daily bowl and dish,
predators for owners, collar and leash;
agreed to be a tool—plow or cart
or confidant—to breed in captivity.

So when the man in the elevator
at the Venetian holding his cardboard
tray of coffees and muffins
heading back to his room
says to no one in particular,
but most likely to the other man,
the three of us strangers,
I better get something in return for this, 
he means fetching breakfast
so his wife can sleep,
I better get something for all of this, 
gesturing with his head,
meaning the hotel, the dinners and shows,
I think about women
who prowl the midnight streets
in their staggering heels,
breasts like missiles
because they’d rather be feral than kept.
And about men who gave up
wilding to name their offspring,
their known code continuing on forever.

I’m carrying my own tray
of coffees and muffins,
will soon press the card against the lock,
open the room, rip off my clothes,
throw back the three hundred
thread-count sheets, waking
my husband. He’s met someone new
and now wants both
of his lives at once.
He can sleep later. These untamed
weeks, we’re savaging,
flesh against flesh, ravishing
our marriage.

But soon the holidays will be over
and we’ll fly home, his Christmas gifts,
back when he thought he knew
what he wanted,
waiting to be put away,
the meat injector—
what brine does to the bird—
downloadable e-book included,
and the wooden mallet ice crusher
with its own canvas bag
for making Moscow Mules
in their frosted copper mugs.

The dog chose what the wolf
refused and became Pekinese,
French Bull, but still needs
to be trained to heel and sit
with a steady payment of treats,
and still, sometimes, runs
when the door’s left open and needs
to be shouted at to come home.

Jacqueline Berger’s fourth book, The Day You Miss Your Exit, was recently published by Broadstone Press. Her book The Gift That Arrives Broken won the 2010 Autumn House Poetry Prize. Her work has also appeared in The Iowa ReviewAmerican Poetry: The Next GenerationOld Dominion ReviewRhi- noRiver Styx, and Nimrod. Berger directs the Master of Arts in English pro- gram at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California, and lives in San Francisco.

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