I tell my wife I dreamed we got a dog.
A big dog, big responsibility.
Apartments wouldn’t let us move in with
the dog, and hotels wouldn’t let us stay.
The dog made giant messes, tore apart
our furniture. Now what was that about?
You dreamed about our daughter, my wife said.
I don’t know why I hadn’t seen that. When
we got her, she’d already grown, but now
she’s not just some big dog, she’s Marmaduke
or Clifford knocking our fence over with
a sneeze and making massive messes, piles
of poop, then showing us those puppy eyes,
and sure, the foster system’s like the pound:
the lucky ones get homes. The rest, at age
eighteen, might just as well be put to sleep.
Another time, my wife complained that our
cat, Sarah, lies around the house and frowns
at vittles that we set in front of her,
and Sarah scratched my wife because she’d tried
to give her Kitty Prozac that the vet
prescribed, then settled in my wife’s lap like
those claws had not just dug into her neck.
(We bought the cat for our autistic son
who feeds her, loves her, tries to pet her, but
she hides beneath our bed until he leaves.)
Aha! I said. You say our cat just naps
all day, lies with her head in your lap while
you stroke her, then resists attempts to make
her healthy, happy? Darling, don’t you see?
The ready claws? The landing on all fours
despite a fall that most could not survive?
from Adjusting to the Lights
2020 Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner
Tom C. Hunley: “I started writing poetry at age eighteen after reading ‘In the Desert’ by Stephen Crane. I have now devoted more than 30 years to a study of the delicious bitterness of my heart.” ( web)