Bad Survivalist: Clare Hogan
Two months before my dog became impossible in age
I became a horse toward eternity to you. I was,
accordingly, mulish and muscular, though when I spoke
it was generally in quiet tones; only on occasion
did I bleat. We subsequently spent a month screwing
one another’s motherloving brains out without ever
having screwed. It was lavish and reckless: I went out
and bought my weight in intimates, but, that night,
spat up down the front of my new negligee. An acid issue.
I’ve always been a little mouthy, not least of all to you.
One night next to you I dreamed I found a little kitten,
crushed its skull until, bone giving, it was halfway dead—
then crushed it to the other half. And all the while my pup
was getting on in age: his rotten teeth, his wobbly paws.
I’d never lay a hand on him. I did, just once—it’s how
you get a dog to whinny—but I’ve been sorry since.
Bad me. Most nights we spent together, you let me
touch your face, which you said you hardly ever let
another living soul. You wore a sleepmask, then slept quiet
as a cat. Like any loyal bitch I only ever bit when told;
most times, when I had my mouth on you, I only lightly licked.
Once I went in with my teeth but stopped mid-act,
my head toward your neck. My poor dog’s hips are tight
from his arthritis. Each step he takes has got the ache
of death. It seems to never come. I wish it would.
I can’t seem to kill a thing I love, even if I watch it hurt.
For four weeks after you left, I didn’t change my sheets
to keep you in them—only washed them when they smelled
like some beast’s breath. But even with the linens fresh,
the memory’s intact: sometimes I stroked your hair.
When I gave you my head, dear, you stroked back.
Elegy with Cat and Dead Rabbits
The first one arrived early May when the cat
caught it in its jaws. I watched, I couldn’t stop
watching, as one beat the other with the pads
of its feet. I thought by then the yard would not
be playing killing games. But it was Michigan,
and when I stepped outside the air still sometimes
sank its claws in me, like that cat’s claws—sharp
and in the open, at the end of which a rabbit lost
all traces of resolve. It had been a winter of this:
you’d been dead a month by then. By mid-May,
I couldn’t tell the corpses apart, the shreds of fur
and skin dark enough to play, by then, at being dirt.
I had to really look to see the bones. I didn’t see you
for a year before you died. But I remember,
one day as you walked toward me, how you seemed
to open when you saw me and were seen, distinct
against the trees that hung above you like the light
that settled in your twists of hair. That dark hair.
And how, approaching, you grew to me.
What about a body is a seed? You are not, I know,
among those on the sidewalk passing by. I think
I’d know you if I saw you. And again outside
the cat’s at it, getting its teeth right into the chest
of another one—mangled, strange—the cat,
this time, digging in the ribs, the heart
bulbous, still now, bare and in plain sight.
Clare Hogan is a writer from Chevy Chase, Maryland. She recently received her MFA in poetry from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, where she is currently a Zell Fellow in poetry. Her work has received an Academy of American Poets Prize. Follow her on Twitter @squarehogan.