I met a man last night who is afraid of dogs.
He said, in Sweden pit bulls are outlawed.
We built a fire from dead yucca
and talked about the selective biting habits of domestic felines:
his cat attacks some women, but not others.
We talked of mimicry: the mimicry of the oppressor
to copy the style of the oppressed.
The female tiger butterfly mimics the monarch
matching its wing design and sun colors
without ever having to feed on poison milkweed.
But he was talking about Hip Hop artists
and women forced to veil themselves.
The man who is afraid of dogs, his girlfriend, and I
go out into the cold night air to collect more yucca.
the girlfriend says to no one in particular
that her shampoo contains yucca
and that her eyes itch, but she cannot cry.
I tell them St. John’s Wort has done nothing for me.
I don’t tell them about the dream I had of my children
burning inside a small hut.
The man who is afraid of dogs
lives just below the Arctic Circle,
where for three months of winter the air is black,
without sun. He wants to know why we Americans
are consumed with the history of other cultures
and not our own. He wants to know why in New Mexico
there are so many crosses on the sides of our roads
and so many churches without bells.
I tell him all the buffalo were slaughtered.
I don’t tell him about the miracle staircase.
I confess to the Swede that I too am afraid of pit bulls -
I’m afraid of the type of people who own pit bulls.
I don’t tell him about my non-violent lesbian
friend who owns a pit bull samed Sugar
and that I have put my hands inside the dog’s mouth.
I don’t tell him about my Chilean painter friend who
in his younger years backpacked through Europe.
He liked Sweden very well, with fond memories
of being in bed with a woman and her mother at the same time.
Or should I say a woman and her daughter.
The fire is going out and the moon is falling.
The man who is afraid of dogs wants to know
where my husband is. He calls me a grass widow
but has the diplomacy not to ask
where it’s war or famine.
I imagine myself mimicking the faithful woman
standing on the shore, looking out to sea
waiting for the return of my seafaring husband.
But the truth is: I don’t stand on the shore often.
I get in the water, and I like the water cold
and the waves hurricane high.