May 9, 2017

A Poem by David Rodriguez: "Epitaph"

David Rodriguez is a writer and teacher with an MFA from Florida State University. He has previously been published in the New Orleans Review, The Southeast Review, Poetry Pacific, The Literateur, and The Double Dealer Redux, among other places.


No more stalking Metairie bats
mid-nap in our neighbors’ gutters
or trundling home with wriggling
lizards, exhausted by your asthma.
No more training the worthless
humans how to hunt. No more

draining abscesses earned from
raccoon fights and street toughs
so far out of your weight class
you were insane to take them on.
No more ambushes on Henry,
the meekest basset in the world,

who couldn’t present a more
stationary and vulnerable target.
No more murder-mystery theater
every time another pet—a fish,
a gerbil, even the damn parakeet
—disappears. (They were never

your competition.) No more
dead man drops from the balcony
before Mom has a chance to
wake up, or sudden punctuation
to a ghost story when you shake
the door to be let in. No more

orange toupee hairballs or late-
night pleading or tumbleweeds
of fur caught in the clawed-up
divots of carpet along the base-
board. No more shared seating
in the den, mawkish histrionics

when we complain, or gleaming
hatred otherwise because of one
shot, one Christmas, from a brand
new Nerf gun I was only trying
out and you happened to run
in front of. (But for all the

evidence of an accident, you
played your victimhood to the
quick, waiting until the first day of
school to rake your claws through
my pants leaving them in gray
ribbons.) Guests saw how the

house was run, and when you
wheezed on my girlfriend’s leg,
causing a rash to spring up within
minutes, I had to say out loud that
I didn’t think it was your fault
because I knew you were listening.

And school taught me what was
happening with each night of belly
rubs from my sister and the fanged
grin on your face, yet I was hopeless
to stop it. I know now Plath’s line
“Every woman adores a Fascist.”

No one else wrote their legacy—or
felt the need to—on each surface
of the house. Even so, the shock
of ease is here at night without
your insistent mewing. Henry can
sit at his window seeing the street

blown clean, the fence line guard
stations and bushwack shrubbery
unmanned, and thinking of the
wind on the bare indentation left
by his collar (which was always
unnecessary) or of the absence of

your death scent choking him like
your own body did to you. I’ve
learned so much about animal
behavior, and met people, too, just
as self-involved, predatory, and
protected. Maybe I love them, too.

© David Rodriguez

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