After driving my wife’s 15-year-old corgi to the vet
(bones welding together sand squeezing a nerve —
an accordion whose song is a dog’s yelp —;
tears streaming down my wife’s reddened face,
expensive muscle relaxants, narcotics, steroids),
I saw a snapping turtle in the middle of the road,
head and legs tucked under the shell.
I wanted to pull over and help it, but I was afraid,
(getting hit by a car myself, getting bit,
my finger lost in the turtle’s maw).
Later, sitting on my porch, with a book of poems
in my lap (No Heaven by David St. John)
and the ailing dog tied to a lead, I scratched
a small constellation of itches on my skin,
and I saw a mosquito land on my screen door,
the little monster that had battened all afternoon
on my blood. I eased out of the chair, hunched,
stalked, and struck ’ my hand a frog’s tongue.
The mosquito flew off in a jagged line,
then returned to the screen, as if magnetized.
I flailed, staggered, and caught it
between thumb and forefinger.
I squeezed that fat beast flat, crumpled its legs,
and crushed it, a raspberry-red smear.
It had been full, ready to burst. I washed
my own blood off my hands, and then it hit me,
as startling as a bee sting, how amazing it is
that I’m alive, how fantastic and strange
that there’s enough of me here for something to feed on,
enough of me to fill
this bag of skin.
from The Tongue