Fastened to a Dying Animal

Editor’s Note: This is the first unsolicited poem I’ve accepted for After Ever After.  It is precisely the type of thing I love to read: dark, unsettling and strangely humorous. 

Fastened to a Dying Animal

by Gary F. Leising

Someone tied a weasel to my chest,
but it’s okay, it’s not the flesh-ripping
claws and toothy kind of weasel,
but one that’s sick, a brain tumor,
I think.  He’s so lethargic,
his eyes don’t focus on me,
not even when I say his name.
Lisa, I say (I named him when I thought,
erroneously, he was a girl),
and he doesn’t look up, or move.
He eats dry dog food soaked in water
to make it soft, and my dog
watches me prepare it.  His ears
are perked up, head cocked,
but when I give him none of the mush,
he’s not disappointed.  But Lisa,
the only time he perks up is when he smells food.
Sometimes he makes a sound.
He’ll get better, I think.  Other times,
that sound is a cough, and my shirt
gets covered with a yellowish goo
trickling out his mouth.  Then I find out
he’s not a weasel, but a small,
sick otter, so we get in the bathtub.
He perks up, tries to swim,
but can’t move with coordination.
When I sleep, I lie on my back
or side, half-afraid of rolling onto him,
half-thinking that if I did,
I’d end his suffering.
But his downward curving whiskers
look like the unintentional mustache
of an old man who struggles
with the simple task of shaving,
and never cuts away those few,
long hairs.

Gary Leising’s poems have appeared in Blackbird, Connecticut Review, The Cincinnati Review, River Styx, Margie,  and elsewhere.  He has reviews and essays in The James Dickey Newsletter, Black Warrior Review, Pleiades and The Way We Read James Dickey, a collection of new critical approaches to Dickey’s work.  Leising’s prose poem “Toenails Diary” was chosen by Russell Edson for the 2008 1/2K Prize from Indiana Review.  He is associate professor of English at Utica College.

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