That Saturday I held a 7-week-old puppy
to my chest, my shirt, his fur the rusted
color of half Cocker Spaniel, half Terrier,
the smell still there when I walked home
hours later, apparent even over the burning
aroma of new asphalt. He was warm,
the last one, his brothers and sisters
all given away from the cardboard box
in the parking lot where the owner,
cigarette slipping from the corner of her mouth,
unaware I cry during animal rescue commercials,
or when I get text messages from my dad,
said feel how loveable he is and I shifted
my bags of potatoes and goat cheese
to grasp him. He laid on me,
silent, not even whimpering, I thought
he died, but then his head drifted over,
onto my heart, my hands remembered
how to feel something alive, how different that is,
my fingers tensed in his fur, hot in the sun,
and I gave him back, said I can’t.
She grabbed him with one hand,
and he drooped in her palm, limp.
At home I lifted my shirt over my head
so I wouldn’t think about where his body
hooked to mine, yet standing in the kitchen,
boiling new eggs, I put my hand on my heart,
thought about my old roommate,
a nursing major who would fall asleep listening
to her heartbeat through a stethoscope.
Let me take your blood pressure,
she would say, practicing on me before tests.
Once I lay in a bed while she rehearsed
changing the sheets around me. I pretended
to be frail, making my voice high-pitched,
brittle, both of us laughing as she rolled me
back and forth over the soft dough of blankets.
I made it harder than necessary for her.
Don’t you want to ace this test?
I sagged in her hands.
There were both of us laughing.