I bring home a baby pitbull in a Nike shoebox,
her mother left tied to a post in the Bronx
after the owner sold her kids. The puppy hops
on hind legs when happy, pees in a pot of yucca,
licks the hollow in my throat when sleeping
on my chest. Muslims believe a dog’s saliva
is nagasah, dirty impurity. Dread runs forward
as a dripping line of slobber slugged at their bodies.
I don’t soap myself seven times after her tender
kiss. I want to muzzle Muslims. I’ve seen them
scrub hands raw when a pug sniffs it, weave
through speeding cars just to bypass a poodle
like it can spit hellfire. A dog won’t attack
the owner who abuses it. We learned helplessness
by shocking dogs. It goes: a terrier was charged
with protecting a baby. The couple found it
with a mouthful of blood. The husband cried,
grabbed a rock and beat the canine to death.
Their baby inside, unharmed, beside a snake
chewed to shreds. There is a Golden Retriever
being trained to chase kids at the border.
There’s another cuddled up by a fireplace,
head on someone's knee as they’re stroked.
Both work hard in their purpose. Neither wants
to crouch alone in a parking lot, quivering
against whatever wind was rising. My grandfather
never had his dimple cleaned with blind devotion.
Never had one bare its fangs, ready to die
for him at the hands of a white man shouting,
Leave your plague of filth back in the desert.
Can’t recall the time a starving collie carefully
carried its first kill, gave all it had to his feet.
Consider the prostitute who passed a mutt
panting near a well. Who took off her shoe,
tied it to her scarf, drew up water for it, and God
forgave her. Him? He’ll hear the phone ring
and won’t pick up. There is Yemen on the other end.
Six dogs and a village crier. Sunlight twizzling
the mountains. Divine messages in sand. The rabid dog
sare hungry, roaming for a man’s remains, a chunk
of a child’s thigh as they play. Savagery in Khormaksar
looks like the same fur that roams our block,
in this borough that never rests, where we are
unfurled, the city glinting blindly off our bodies.
Something on the street brushes my grandfather
like a wet nose and he thinks the dogs are back,
occupying our hood, asking, Where are your papers?
In his dreams, the dogs are treeing him onto the roof
of his store. Each bark jitters the ceiling light,
their eyes on him like a raid, claws raking the glass.
No angels will enter our house he tells me,
lifts the pitbull from sagging skin, tosses her
into tall blades of grass, her whine a low nothing.
In another land, he would hear a dog’s growl
and think, comrade. To him, never was a noise
less lonely–—it sounded like his big brother
pouring sea-water over his head between waves.
But he won’t let himself remember it. I’ll have
the ashes of my animal buried with me. I’ll push
my face deep into the folds of its sweaty neck.
Put so much of myself where he’s still too afraid to reach.