Threa Almontaser
Muslim with Dog

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.

Found In Volume 49, No. 03
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  • almontaser
Threa Almontaser
About the Author

Threa Almontaser is a Yemeni-American writer, translator, and multimedia artist from New York City. A first generation college student, she is a MFA graduate from North Carolina State University and the recipient of scholarships from the Tin House Writers' Workshop, the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, The Kerouac House in Orlando, among others.