March 31, 2021

Jessica Lee


I was embarrassed by the way my dog 
Daisy licked herself so openly, 
with no shame, whether she was sprawled 
in the middle of the lawn or
across the kitchen floor, her pink tongue
cleaning the holes where her natural fluids left 
her body, the hole where 
the Australian Shepherd down the street 
would enter her when she was in heat
despite my mother’s attempts 
to keep the gate locked. 
A litter would come out of that hole 
eight weeks later, wet and blind, not at all 
the cute puppies I’d imagined they’d be. 
Of course, I was a child and actually afraid 
of my own body, the folds of skin 
I did not understand and sometimes explored 
until, at the dinner table, my mom told me 
to get my hand out of my pants and
my face got hot as the bowl of Campbell’s 
tomato soup on the table in front of me
that I was supposed to eat with the spoon
clenched in my dirty hand. 

                                                 Years later,
my first boyfriend begged me to flip over
so we could do it doggy style
At first, I refused, thinking of the porn 
I didn’t watch but knew he did, not wanting
to be a woman on her knees, bare ass 
in the air. I was also thinking 
about Daisy licking every part of herself, 
then coming over to lick my hand.
I wanted more separation 
between her tongue and my skin, her tongue
and the places it had been, myself 
and the parts of myself I wasn’t 
supposed to touch. I’d watched 
so many period pieces about English
high society, dreamed of a being a lady
who knew how to waltz
and eat pheasant with a fork
and knife moving simultaneously. I imagined
to be one of them I had to keep lying
on my back, prim and quiet, thinking 
of green pastures I’d never actually seen
instead of the boy above me, asking me to
open my mouth and make more noise
like the animal I was. 

from Rattle #70, Winter 2020
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist


Jessica Lee: “For years, I tried to write a poem about this particular time in my teenage mind/bedroom, but the drafts never felt like they encompassed everything I wanted them to hold. Then one winter, during a trip home to visit my mother, I watched our dog lick herself in the middle of the living room while we were watching Pride & Prejudice and—just like that—the poem unfolded in my mind’s eye. I stopped watching the movie and Daisy, went in search of a pen.” (web)

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