Two Poems

Dilemma

When I was a girl, snail shells were magical,

especially once the snail was gone. No ooze 

to contend with, those stalked eyes attenuating 

and retracting inexplicably—just the shell, 

unfraught by an inhabitant that would have 

to be evicted before the treasure could be 

displayed on a shelf. To remove the snail, 

I’d have to put it where it could not live 

and wait for it to die, which would make me 

either a brute or a boy. I did not want to be 

the former. I was ambivalent about the latter, 

though it seemed to me their lives were more 

interesting than mine, or at least the things 

boy scouts did were more interesting than 

anything we did in girl scouts, which seemed 

like the most concrete way to assess how 

boys and girls differed. That, and violence. 

From what I could tell, if I were a boy, 

I wouldn’t want a snail shell as a keepsake.

I’d just smash it with a rock to see the insides, 

the hidden parts that manufactured slime. 

If I were a boy, I’d want to see the muscle 

of it, but instead, I wanted the pretty part. 

Back then I didn’t know if there were boy 

snails and girl snails. I’m not sure I even 

thought about it. It turns out, there aren’t. 

Or, there are, but they share one body. 

Back then, I would have found this fact 

both intriguing and encouraging, since I 

wanted to collect pretty things, but maybe 

not be one. I didn’t want to have to worry 

about a hidden part of me that might make 

a boy want to break me open or a pretty 

part that might make a girl wish me dead.


Traffic

When I was a kid, 

the dogs ran free, 

which is why 

they kept dying.

My first heartbreak 

was a dog that didn’t 

come back. I remember 

my father handing 

my mother the empty collar.

This is how I learned

there are troubles so deep 

you can’t climb out.

There are mistakes 

you only make once, 

and not because 

you’ve learned. 

Still, I could not 

resist the urge to 

chase down whatever 

needed chasing—

whatever beckoned 

from the far side 

of traffic.

So many close calls, 

strange cars I climbed into 

that could have turned 

into a missing child poster, 

an obituary—my body 

found in a ditch.

Instead, the people who

pulled over when I flashed

my thumb all wanted

the same thing: to save me 

from whomever might be

driving the next car.

They delivered me 

home with a scolding

but otherwise intact, 

more convinced than ever 

of my own immortality,

more convinced than ever

that nothing bad was fast 

enough to catch me.

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