African painted dogs eat a child in my hometown

I ask for directions a handful of times.

“How do I get to the woods?”

“Where to?” They ask,

and I am not sure anymore.

A four year old boy is eaten

by the African Painted Dogs in my hometown zoo

after falling into the enclosure. His mother lifted him

onto the fence to see the creatures.

When he stops moving, body

no longer under command, body

no longer together, the cries for help, cries for

somebody

do

something

end. The forests we drive through at dusk

as we leave Kansas, the long nothingness

of the state, rolling hills on and on

are purple wonderland tones;

I want to Photoshop real life.

Then the screaming starts again

and I remember to breathe.

His mother screams for three days straight.

Nobody gets to escape.

She doesn’t know how to exist if she stops.

Colorado looks just like Kansas for the first 200 miles —

long, thin and flat. I used to dream

again and again I was in a theater,

the big Benedum in downtown Pittsburgh

or the Fox in Saint Louis where Alex and I went

to hear Vivaldi’s Seasons with the red velvet

loveseats in the lobby. I would hear screaming

and it would take me a minute to realize the shrieks

were my own. Everyone was staring,

I was standing and the symphony had stopped.

Everything is hushed.

We arrive in Colorado too late to see the mountains.

Six hours later, I walk out of the cheap hotel,

morning cigarette while San sleeps in.

I see the hills. Inhale.

We are still young. Exhale.

This thought should be comforting.

We left home thinking of Las Vegas.

A fight with my mother over the telephone.

We decide not to elope, the excitement turns

to the frustration of being and knowing

we don’t have forever, of wanting

to move and risk and try.

Here is the truth I haven’t wanted to tell you:

I was afraid

of everything

the entire time.

The police drive around my neighborhood every night now,

preventing more robberies —

the older brother last year at gunpoint.

We come across a doe walking

along the road near Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs,

where we go instead of eloping.

All I want is to be animal.

We make up our own wedding vows

on the gravel pavement of the empty parking lot

near Graham Cave in Western Missouri.

I do, I do. We guess

what time it is before we check the clock,

adjusting our eyes to the sunrise

and sunset times of the winter season.

San and I tell each other which colors we see

and where. His moon is a grapefruit.

Morning cigarette while San sleeps in.

His leg has been bothering him again —

Well-Differentiated Liposarcoma.

I’m afraid of our bodies.

You can’t live if you don’t have:

health,

money.

(Written 2013, photograph by me)

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