Back to Issue Sixteen.

elegy with attack dog



And the loss takes your neck
in its teeth and splits the skin.

And the loss shakes
and shakes you, leaves
your spent body on the pavement.

And the loss returns quietly, as if
to forgive you: his fountain pens

in the chipped clay mug. His bourbon
softened with water.

And the loss finds you months later,
blissful until you realize, on vacation

in San Francisco; the loss climbs the palm-
lined hills with you as penance
for your happiness.

And the loss bares its teeth.
And the loss gnaws the window latch.

And the loss sees you sleep with an arm
outstretched, longing for him—sees your body
of bet-hedged love.

And the loss takes your neck
in its teeth and it splits the skin.

And the loss shakes
and shakes you, leaves you
where it drops you.

And today the sky decides
to cover you in snow instead of rain,

the new year begun
without your permission.

Those pens still splayed
in the chipped clay mug. The bourbon
closing your eyes.

And the loss pulls you close—
for there’s nothing else left for the loss
to do. It nuzzles you, retracts

its snarl; it sleeps like the dead
at the foot of your bed.

And you lie awake
and stare at the loss, rubbing
the soft spot at your throat

that misses the shape
of its mouth.



first draft of the mother



The creature I made has feet
too soft for the ground.

The creature has my feet,
perhaps, my feet once too soft

for the ground, a puzzle
my mother solved, or grew stronger

on my weakness, lifting me up,
up. I feed this creature

and she grows—
you and I had known the secret

of this simple impossible work
all along—we lift her

and lift her and she sings
somewhere above us, gravity

and what saves us
from gravity—she survives

and we feed on her survival,
this sour-mouth and this

hot-skin, this
warden of our light.

Rachel Mennies is the author of The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards, winner of the 2013 Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry and finalist for a National Jewish Book Award, and the chapbook No Silence in the Fields. Her poetry has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Drunken Boat, The Journal, Crazyhorse, and elsewhere, and has been reprinted at Poetry Daily. Mennies now serves (2015—) as the series editor for the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry at Texas Tech University Press. She teaches writing at Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of AGNI’s editorial team.

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