If you want something soft and supple
to lie beside, try a rat.
Just one. The kind sold in stores
with survival names like Noah's Ark
or Animal Haven, the one you could buy
for your python or boa constrictor
if you liked snakes. You do not.
You've been squeezed breathless
and now it's the Year of the Rat. The most
you can muster is a tap on the back.
It's difficult to come back from the dead
at first—all that unwinding the sheet.
Yet it's not quite as bad as you imagined.
The little rodent lifts its eyes
and twitches at you inquisitively.
You ask if it is male or female. Male,
and cheap. The clerk too is young and bright-eyed.
After an hour of delicate pokes,
you think perhaps you can hold him.
Your hands shake.
His paws are delicate. You see
Sanskrit and scalpels on your palms.
He wants to be near you, wriggle
inside your jacket. You feel him fidgeting
into your sweater where your heart
used to be. Where it stopped beating not so long ago.
You realize how it will be now:
a dogged quiver at your core.
Lois Marie Harrod’s book Brief Term, poems about teaching, was published Black Buzzard Press (2011) and her chapbook Cosmogony won the 2010 Hazel Lipa Chapbook contest (Iowa State University). Her chapbook Furniture won the 2008 Grayson Press Poetry Prize. Previous publications include the chapbook Firmament (2007); the chapbook Put Your Sorry Side Out (2005); Spelling the World Backward (2000); the chapbook This Is a Story You Already Know (l999); Part of the Deeper Sea (1997); the chapbook Green Snake Riding (1994); Crazy Alice (1991); Every Twinge a Verdict (l987). In 2003, she won her third poetry fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts. She has been widely published online and in print journals including American Poetry Review, Blueline, The MacGuffin, Salt, The Literary Review, Zone3. A Geraldine R. Dodge poet and former high school teacher, she teaches Creative Writing at The College of New Jersey.